The Crusader Newspaper Group

This weekend’s picks at the 58th Chicago International Film Festival

A Lot of Nothing

DIR. Mo McRae (directorial debut); United States
Written by Mo McRae and Sarah Kelly Kaplan

GENRES Comedy, Social Commentary, Thriller
Black Perspectives; An RLJE release

Director, co-writer, producer Mo McRae attending in person for these screening.

Starring Y’lan Noel, Cleopatra Coleman, Shamier Anderson, Lex Scott Davis and Justin Hartley

Ylan Noel Cleopatra Coleman Shamier Anderson Lex Scott Davis
Y’LAN NOEL, Cleopatra Coleman, Lex Scott Davis and Shamier Anderson ponder their precarious situation in ‘A Lot of Nothing.’

Synopsis: “A Lot of Nothing” is a wildly entertaining and humorous exploration of what people today do in moments of extreme despair and conflict. Fiercely committed performances by the two main characters, James and Vanessa, show them as being happily married, successful, and comfortable in every way. They are rocked to their core while watching the news one night when they see cell phone footage of their neighbor committing a crime. In a state of shock, and with opposing points of view about how to address the issue, they go on a highly combustible journey to ‘do something.’

James and Vanessa are an upper middle-class family with all the trappings; a Tesla, a Mercedes, great jobs and a fabulous house. The situations in this film spiral out of control, when Vanessa is bent on confronting the cop about the murder of the young man.

From the beginning of the film to the end, viewers are treated to a taut, tense, suspenseful, slick and sleek ride that brings to mind a Shakespeare title “Much To Do About Nothing.” As the title suggests, it’s “A Lot of Nothing,” but with so many exciting things happening throughout the film. It’s a great film that examines privilege, racism and wealth in a satirical, comedic and serious manner. It reminds me of the film “A Simple Plan,” with things going awry to a point of no return.

Chicago International Film Festival Screenings:
Saturday, October 15; 8:30 p.m. AMC River East 21; Sunday, October 16; 12 p.m. AMC River East 21


DIR. Alex Thompson; United States
GENRES Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Synopsis: In this deftly directed psychological thriller, a promising young doctor loses his grasp on reality after developing an unhealthy obsession with a patient whose symptoms seem suspect,

After treating an older patient near the end of her life and collapsing, resident doctor James Hayman (Namir Smallwood) transfers to a rural hospital in Greenville for the second year of his residency for a fresh start. Having trouble connecting with patients, his superior Dr. Harrison (Michael Potts) urges him to be more personable and take a “Bedside Technique” class.

When James becomes consumed with the case of young asthma patient Helen Adso (Sidney Flanigan), demons from his past begin haunting him and make him question the intentions of Helen’s mother (Rebecca Spense). As an injured ankle flares up and James is confronted with hospital bureaucracy, his nightmares magnify his anxiety, and his reality starts to unravel.

In Alex Thompson’s follow up to his highly acclaimed “Saint Frances” (2019), he achieves engrossing psychological horror through assured visual language anchored by a captivating lead performance by newcomer Smallwood in his first feature film.


I simply adore Smallwood, and I have seen him in a couple of live performances in Chicago. In this film, I feel for him. He is so consumed by his job, but he is struggling with mental health issues himself. This attraction sets off spiraling sequences that conjure up demonic imagery and feelings for the kind, compassionate doctor.

This film was a treat to screen before its premiere this weekend at the 58th Chicago International Film Festival.

Chicago International Film Festival Screenings:

Saturday, October 15, 5:15 p.m. AMC River East 21; Sunday, October 16; 12 p.m. Gene Siskel Film Center


Elaine Hegwood 1
Elaine Hegwood Bowen

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago ( or email: [email protected].

Recent News

Scroll to Top