Jason James’ film “Entanglement”’s enticing title and plot set-up blunders and misses the target. Its whimsical effects are beautiful on their own, but don’t particularly help the film with its struggling narrative. The film’s so-called “entanglement” suggests magical moments and wonder, but it falls short of any surprises, becoming more and more predictable with each passing scene.
When Ben Layten (an endearing Thomas Middleditch), a divorcé, loses himself after a suicide attempt, he tries to make sense of where his life went wrong by making a timeline web of red yarn and pictures of his life on the wall. Soon after, his parents reveal to Ben that he was supposed to have an adopted sister before they found out his mom was pregnant with him. In pursuit of his almost-sister Hanna Weathers (a spunky and fearless Jess Weixler), Ben sets off on what he calls his own “quest.”
Next door, Ben’s neighbor Tabby Song (Diana Bang) is everything that he’s not. Skeptical yet caring, Tabby seems to play the actual role of the sister, caring and protective in nature. Some of the best shots of the film come from the peephole perspective of Tabby’s room, revealing her behind-the-door thoughts about Ben. Bang’s performance makes Tabby’s character convincing, but her actions, along with a few tense moments throughout the film, make it obvious early on that Tabby’s concern for Ben goes beyond those of a friend.
When Ben finds Hanna, he realizes that he has already met her before. Convinced that his own life has fallen to the current state as a result of quantum physics (of which he only has an amateur understanding at best), Ben finds an echo chamber in Hanna’s claim that she’s connected to Ben through “quantum entanglement.” That, coupled with Ben’s deteriorating mental health (he continuously hears voices and sees an alternate self in the mirror, animated deer in the park where they play hide-and-go-seek, and glowing jellyfish in the pool they break into) give away what Hanna really is.
Nonetheless, the animated jellyfish scene is fantastic and charming. The translucent pink shapes contrast with the blues of the water and the illuminated figures of Ben and Hanna’s bodies wading underwater, bubbles rising from their faces to the light shining down from above. An earlier cut features Ben and Hanna in the same blue-tinted shot, dancing at a concert with lights flashing behind them. Paired with evocative music, these scenes stand alone as the highlights of the film.
“Entanglement” touches on a little of everything, but doesn’t do any of it particularly well. Both Hanna and Ben’s pathetic attempts to explain complex physics concepts and metaphors suggest a somewhat academic endeavor (perhaps reminiscent of “A Beautiful Mind”). An underwater scene of Hanna telling Ben to “just let go” as she floats down into oblivion screams a cheesy rendition of Rose telling Jack that she will “never let go” in the iconic “Titanic” scene.
The ending, predictable from halfway through the film, leaves an unsatisfactory exposition of what the title and first few minutes had left expectations for. “Entanglement” gets tangled in its own plot, unnecessarily complicating details of a predictable story.
—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22.