We'd all like to get to the bottom of the titular conundrum posed by Roger Nygard's The Nature of Existence, but traveling around the world asking religious leaders, skeptics, scientists, and a few ringer celebrities "life's big questions" is probably not the best way to pursue such a personal journey—at least, it doesn't seem terribly productive in the case of Nygard's travelogue. There's something a tad disingenuous about the director's quest for meaning, as if the whole arc of the project has been contrived to adhere to a scripted template rather than to document a genuine search. Otherwise, we would expect him to actually interrogate his subjects' responses instead of giving us little more than sound bites of the religious espousing basic doctrine, the nonbelievers waxing skeptical, and the scientists spouting string theory. When Nygard does devote more than a minute of screen time to a colorful subject, it's often useless to his mission, as when the aggressively puritanical evangelist Jed Smock shows up to harangue college students about their promiscuity. Yes, Smock is a flamboyant asshole, but listening to his rigid Christianity hardly gets us any closer to a fundamental understanding of life's elusive purpose.
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