Entanglement a small, smart comedy about almost-suicide and almost-siblings

By Jim Slotek

Rating: B-plus

A high TV Q-score can be a curse for an actor. On the other hand, it can offer dramatic shorthand – as is the case with Entanglement, the quirky Canadian existential comedy starring an eminently recognizable actor whose name you may not know.

That actor is Thomas Middleditch, star of Silicon Valley and Verizon commercials. His role in both is to be intelligent, amiably neurotic, self-confidence-lacking and mishap prone.

These are spot-on credentials for the role of Ben in Entanglement, a character we meet literally at the end of his rope, and anything else he can think of to end his life. His attempt at carbon monoxide poisoning is stymied by a car thief, the toaster cord isn’t long enough to reach the bathtub, etc.

 Entanglement: Long-lost almost-sister Jess Weixler gives Thomas Middleditch a reason to live

Entanglement: Long-lost almost-sister Jess Weixler gives Thomas Middleditch a reason to live

That he manages to almost pull off his task is the catalyst for a small, mildly antic movie about existential soul-searching, our place in the universe, finding love and illusion.

An object of concern for those who know him - and for a psychiatrist (Johannah Newmarch) who seems to find him annoying - Ben can barely drag himself out of bed following a messy breakup. Fortunately, he has his best friend and neighbour Tabby (Diana Bang) to help with the dragging. Tabby’s attention suggests a level of affection that goes deep – enough so that, just maybe, she’s the answer to his problems.

But of course, what would a mordantly romantic comedy be if we just hooked up people who belong together in the first act? Entanglement is only 85 minutes long as it is.

Instead, Ben needs a journey. We’re not really sure what it is he does for a living, but like Richard in Silicon Valley, he approaches problems like a computer analyst, creating a flowchart mural of his life on his living room wall, studying variables in an attempt to figure out where his life went wrong.

But his breakthough is not mathematical. It occurs when his dad, in a confessional mood after a heart attack, reveals that Ben’s parents had adopted a baby girl, despairing of ever having a child of her own, but gave her back when his mom became pregnant with Ben.

Something in this news is profoundly significant to Ben. He had an almost-sister. How would his life have been different with her as a wild-card factor?

And of course, he finds her. And Hanna (Jess Weixler) is indeed a wild card – a thrill-seeker, law-breaker and general bad-girl who serves the dual purpose of making Ben feel alive and offering helpful insights into “quantum entanglement,” the process by which they found each other. Soon, their relationship turns sexual, and manages not to be as creepy as sleeping with your almost-sister sounds.

There is a twist to all of this, a not unfamiliar one in movies involving characters with mental health issues. And it’s telegraphed early.

And for everything Middleditch brings to the role of Ben, it’s Weixler’s dynamo Hanna who brings Entanglement to life. Their scenes together have a perfect smoothness that the rest of Ben’s life (and indeed the rest of the movie) lacks. The comedy is situational (the “breakthrough” moment by which Ben acquires Hanna’s adoption file is particularly dryly funny).

Entanglement is an oddly enjoyable experience for a film about overcoming suicidal urges. And director Jason James and writer Jason Filiatrault sustain this light touch remarkably well.

Entanglement. Directed by Jason James, written by Jason Filiatrault. Starring Thomas Middleditch, Jess Weixler and Diana Bang. Opens Friday, February 9 at Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas and Cineplex Odeon Winston Churchill Cinemas.