Feckless Thriller Nothing Without You Is So Bad It Needs a Laugh Track


Jennifer Stidger (Emily Fradenburgh), the hero of the feckless thriller Nothing Without You, suffers from delusions, hallucinations, and bouts of anxiety and paranoia, but it wouldn’t be accurate to describe this as a film about schizophrenia.

For director Xackery Irving, mental illness is merely a pretense for predictable murder-mystery intrigue, and he seems considerably more interested in the dramatic possibilities of the condition’s symptoms than the reality of those who endure them every day. Well, to be fair, this seems fairly representative of Irving’s creative sensibility: He defers so often to the conventions of psychological suspense stories that his film amounts to nothing more than an amalgamation of them.

Jennifer, naturally, does not resemble a person so much as a composite of stock types — the wrongfully accused murderer, the unreliable narrator, the woman on the edge — and their synthesis makes them feel no less shopworn.

In this way she matches her surroundings: The film’s every emotional beat, every creaky machination of its plot, every ridiculous pivot or twist before the final absurd revelation feels borrowed, quite conspicuously, from better material. There isn’t the faintest glimmer of lived experience to be found here, not the briefest flash of truth.

What remains seems in some ways closer to a parody of bad thrillers than an earnest example of one — the only difference is that Nothing Without You doesn’t know that it’s funny. Still, you wonder what a laugh track and a midnight run might do.