After directing numerous shorts and episodes of the TV series All Rise and East New York, Mo McRae crafts a sold feature in A Lot of Nothing from RLJE Films. James (Ylan Noel) and Vanessa (Cleopatra Coleman) are the happiest couple, with a strong marriage and successful careers, and they are financially secure. One night their lives are rocked to the core when, after watching a tragedy play out on the evening news.
A cop killed an unarmed teenager in the incident. After realizing that their neighbor, Brian (Justin Hartley), is involved, things escalate. In a state of shock and with opposing viewpoints on addressing the issue, they embark on a highly combustible journey to 'do something' about it. They initially wanted to post something on social media but couldn't agree on what to say. A series of events culminated in Brian being held hostage in their home.
Further complicating matters, the couple is due to host a dinner for James's brother Jamal (Shamier Anderson) and his fiancée Candy (Lex Scott Davis). This adds to the already high-stress level of the couple as they must put on a good show to make their guests feel welcome while juggling their issues and keeping the hostage a secret.
Before receiving the film's press kit, I had no idea that actor Mo McRae had turned his hat to directing. I have followed his career since the early 2000s when he appeared on TV occasionally, to his star appearance in the drama MVP last year. The film opens with a continuous shot sequence where James and Vanessa discuss the event. It's an acting showcase for both actors and validates that Ylan Noel should be more of a leading man by now.
I wasn't too familiar with actress Cleopatra Coleman's work before this film, but I was pleasantly surprised by how effectively she carried the female lead. McRae focuses on the naturalistic performances of the two leads, and the impressive long takes throughout the film demonstrate his skill as a director. His attention to detail and ability to evoke emotion from the actors show that he is a director to be reckoned with.
Justin Hartley of This Is Us fame plays against type by portraying a repulsive character. Kudos to McRae and his co-writer Sarah Kelly Kaplan, as they paint his character as not necessarily a racist but more so someone who is out of touch and doesn't know how to adapt to the changing world around him. His character is self-preservation, as he clings onto a life he knew before, even if it is no longer a fit for him in the present. This mindset is a common issue many people face as they struggle to come to terms with the changes that come with time.
I was also delighted to see Shamier Anderson and Lex Scott Davis on screen, as I'm a fan of both. Anderson hams it up with viewpoints as a militant while Lex Scott Davis radiates on the screen as his supporting other half. Shout out to David Sardy for his score, which incorporates numerous musical styles.
A Lot Of Nothing may come off preachy to some viewers, especially with the twist in the film. However, when the credits rolled, McRae successfully created a film that allowed the viewer to look at things from different perspectives.
Final Grade: B+
A Lot Of Nothing is available on VOD and also playing theatrically.