When you’re repeatedly fed messages in the media of people who look like you being criminals and the worst of society, it begins to take a toll and gives way to depression, anxiety, and a seething rage just waiting to explode. Mo McRae’s directorial debut, A Lot Of Nothing, follows an affluent black couple who are enraged to discover that their white neighbor has gunned down an unarmed teenager. Their anger and frustration leads to them taking matters into their own hands to ensure that justice is served.
We’re first introduced to James (Y’lan Noel) and Vanessa (Cleopatra Coleman), an attractive, upwardly mobile black couple, as they spend the evening on the couch watching television. James is a workaholic who is splitting his focus between his wife, the television, and completing a work document. The evening takes a dark turn when a news report reveals that an unarmed teenager, who is presumably black, has been shot and killed by a police officer. The couple is particularly alarmed to discover that it’s their white neighbor, Brian (Justin Hartley), who they’ve had issues with previously.
The sequence that follows is a back and forth between the couple about how they can share their outrage about this injustice with the rest of the world. Should they make a post on Facebook? Should it include a Martin Luther King Jr quote? How will their white co-workers react? Will they accuse them of being agitators?
The next day, Vanessa has a tense interaction with Brian, and the confrontation culminates in her and James taking him hostage and demanding that he answer for the murder of the unarmed teenager. When James’ brother, Jamal (Shamier Anderson) and his pregnant girlfriend, Candy (Lex Scott Davis), arrive for dinner, the situation begins to spiral out of control as unchecked traumas and betrayals are revealed.
The cast really commits to these roles. This topic is a sensitive one, and the actors and the script attempt to approach it in a way that illustrates the various points of view and schools of belief as it pertains to the relationship between African Americans and police, police brutality, racism, sexism in the workplace, etc.
Noel and Coleman serve as the co-leads and anchors of this film and do an excellent job of embodying their characters and deftly portraying them, flaws and all. James and Vanessa aren’t perfect and have their own skeletons in the closet that are just as much to blame for their rage as the thought of their white neighbor killing an unarmed black teenager. The film goes to great lengths to illustrate the point that these two aren’t infallible and are far from the perfect couple they’d like the world to believe they are. Although they’ve amassed success and wealth, and although they love each other, they’re deeply unhappy and insecure.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Shamier and Davis, portray Jamal and Candy as a couple who aren’t as successful, but a lot happier. They’re expecting their first child and blissfully unaware of how little respect Jamal and Vanessa actually have for them. When they discover Brian is being held hostage, we get different reactions. While Jamal defaults to much of the same rage Vanessa and James feel, Candy proves to be more nurturing and concerned for Brian’s wellbeing.
Hartley’s portrayal of Brian is worth mentioning as well. He isn’t a one-dimensional racist character, and honestly, the film doesn’t really lead you to think he’s racist at all. He has a few lines that could be interpreted as racism or just his general disdain for humanity, and that’s actually more interesting. He’s a very ambiguous character, and much more interesting because of that.
The film begins to go off the rails toward the end because of too many subplots. Without spoiling too much, Vanessa and James are pretty unlikeable by the end of the film. So much information is thrown in about their individual personalities and shortcomings, that you can’t help but wonder if the events of the story have only played out the way they have because this couple can’t sit down and be vulnerable with each other. The film’s message becomes extremely confusing and muddled by the end.
When it’s all said and done, A Lot Of Nothing is a film that will leave you with a lot to think about but loses some of its message and impact due to some of the subplots included towards the end of the film.
A Lot Of Nothing is currently playing in select theaters and is available on Digital and On Demand courtesy of RLJE Films.
When it's all said and done, A Lot Of Nothing is a film that will leave you with a lot to think about but loses some of its message and impact due to some of the subplots included towards the end of the film.
Writer. Video Essayist. Film/TV Critic. Pop Culture Enthusiast.
When he isn’t writing for Geek Vibes Nation or creating content for his YouTube channel, Tristian can be found typing away at the young adult novel he has been working on for three years.