Nothing (2003)

Rating: B-

Dir: Vincenzo Natali
Star: David Hewlett, Andrew Miller

Two ultimate losers (Hewlett + Miller) find themselves at an utter dead-end: dumped by society, besieged by the police, and with no hope left at all. Then, everything else simply vanishes, leaving just them and their house in the middle of a white, slightly-springy world. Have they died? No, because they still have cable. Dropped through a wormhole? Been abducted by aliens? Such weighty matters as finding a cause, take secondary place to the imminent requirements of survival, at least until they discover the ability to “hate” anything they don’t like out of existence, including their hunger pangs. For a while life is idyllic, until bickering breaks out – probably inevitable, when any two people are trapped together with little hope of escaping each other’s company (see also 2LDK). From there on, things gradually escalate…

At its best, this is fabulously inventive cinema, with moments of wondrous imagination, like Douglas Adams at his finest. The opening five minutes grabs you right away, and the central concept is flat-out wonderful. However, perhaps the biggest failing is the leads, who fail to be likeable, in the way, say, Simon Pegg + Nick Frost were in Shaun of the Dead. Hewlett has an off-putting resemblance to Tarantino, while Miller’s character is a whiny, petulant crybaby with few redeeming features. The middle of the film also drags, perhaps a result of the limitations of the setting. There’s only so many ways you can shoot two actors in a totally white background – Natali uses them all, and then some. [And if you’re like me, you’ll also find the perpetual “boing!” sound that accompanies every footstep immensely irritating after a while!]

Just as you think this has run out of steam, it catches a second wind, and gallops on to an entirely surreal conclusion, which I admit may not make “logical sense” (I appreciate that concept seems nonsensical, given the plot description, but under the rules the film sets up, I have issues – unfortunately, I can’t raise them here without spoilers). It’s certain you will remember it though, and sit through the end credits too, for an epilogue which perhaps trumps the lot for absolute bizarreness. That’s probably its strongest suit: you won’t have seen anything like the film this year, outside of post-cheese sandwich, REM periods. Natali doesn’t just push the boundaries of genre movies, it’s clear that to him they mean…well, Nothing.