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It’s a rare event when a film arrives with a genuinely bold and unique concept, and even rarer when said film actually lives up to it. NOTHING, directed by CUBE’S Vincenzo Natali, handily accomplishes both feats.

The Package
     NOTHING (2003) was the Canadian Vincenzo Natali’s third feature, after the brilliant CUBE (1997) and CYPHER (2002). The latter film, a sci fi drama, was a solid one, though not up to the brilliance of CUBE. NOTHING, however, very nearly matched it.
     The lead actors were David Hewlett and Andrew Miller, both of whom appeared in CUBE. Miller also co-wrote the script with Andrew Lowery (who has a small role in the film), who dub themselves “The Drews.” NOTHING was not a huge success, but, despite misconceived elements, is well worth your time.

The Story
     David and Andrew are two losers stuck in a rut--their house is slated for demolition and David’s ex-girlfriend is hassling him. Yet one day they find their house situated in an endless white expanse--literally, nothing.
     Their first impulse is to explore the nothing, which turns out to be just that. There’s literally nothing else to be seen in this place. Somehow David and Andrew manage to make their way back to their house.
     They deduce that they’ve “hated away” the entire world and everyone in it--everyone but themselves and their house. And the process still works: they find they can hate away things like hunger and even memory as well as physical objects.
     Inevitably David and Andrew become fed up with each other. Andrew disappears, making David think he’s hated himself away. Andrew has actually painted himself white so he blends in with the nothing in an effort to fake David out. This further widens the riff between the two, which ends up with them hating away each others’ limbs, organs and torsos, until all that’s left are two disembodied heads.

The Direction
     For the most part NOTHING is bold and quite brilliant in its execution, but the opening half hour is problematic. It’s done as a broad-to-the-point-of-annoyance comedy, with the lead actors overacting shamelessly. David Hewlett and Andrew Miller are talented enough performers, but far from the comedy dream team Vincenzo Natali seems to believe they are. On his DVD audio commentary Natali admits the opening scenes were a challenge, and it doesn’t appear to have ever been cracked.
     Once the “Nothing” makes itself apparent, though, the film improves. The broad comic tone actually works in its favor here, allowing for all sorts of craziness that never feels out of place, including a wacky dream sequence, numerous inventive digital effects and an ending that’s positively mind-boggling in its demented invention.
     Natali is the film’s true star. He already proved in CUBE that he’s a master of low budget innovation, and here pushes his considerable skills even farther. With no background in the all-white nothing to set his actors against, Natali makes ingenious use of perspective and camera movement, all executed with the confidence of a true master.

Vital Statistics

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Director: Vincenzo Natali
Producer: Steven Hoban
Screenplay: Andrew Miller, Andrew Lowery
Cinematography: Derek Rogers
Editing: Michele Conroy
Cast: David Hewlett, Andrew Miller, Marie-Josee Croze, Gordan Pinsent, Andrew Lowery