Following two failed suicide attempts in the wake of his wife leaving him, Ben Layten (Thomas Middleditch) struggles with the burden of an unspecified mental illness. Searching for new meaning in his life, he learns that he once had an adopted sister, who his parents, after discovering that they were pregnant again, gave up almost immediately after bringing her home. Entanglement focuses on Ben’s journey to find this almost-sibling, and early on, director Jason James is rather deft at juggling the film’s disparate tones of dark humor, quirky romanticism, and philosophical inquisitiveness. But as soon as Ben becomes more deeply involved with Hanna (Jess Weixler), whom he believes was the adopted sister he never actually had, the film rapidly devolves into a shallow portrait of an exceedingly moody narcissist.
Throughout the film, numerous women cater to the self-absorbed Ben, serving as balms to soothe his wounded psyche and ensure that his path to enlightenment remains as smooth as possible. Hanna is the epitome of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, concerned with nothing more than injecting fun into Ben’s dreary life, while his close friend, Tabby (Diana Bang), remains at his beck and call, popping up occasionally to provide him with solace and advice. Even Ben’s former child psychologist (Johannah Newmarch) allows him to repeatedly take time out of other patients’ sessions so she can steer him in the right direction. Ben’s solipsism is unmistakable and suffocating, and while James intends for us to sympathize with the character every step of his way toward whatever epiphany awaits him, that’s something the film doesn’t earn given how noxiously it’s imagined its female characters.
When quantum entanglement is first addressed early in the film, one might naturally expect the notion of universal interconnectedness to either lead Ben toward a greater sense of purpose or connect him to something outside of his own selfish needs and desires. But even this concept is, through a big third-act reveal, reduced to something limited to his own perception. In once again making everything all about Ben and his permanent state of arrested development, Entanglement continues to revel in his self-entitlement, providing him with a quick-fix solution that masquerades as a happy ending. The film seems to think Ben has changed, but he’s really learned nothing except that the women around him will continue to bail him out no matter how indifferent he is to the sacrifices they make for him.