Something, Anything

Posted by Joel Copling on February 2, 2015

Her given name is Margaret, but she has insisted on being called "Peggy" for so long that even those who know it's the short-form are shocked when she makes the shift to the proper title. For her, it's a calculated decision, and as played by a luminous Ashley Shelton, the calculation is completely authentic. This is a woman whom we see in her happiest moments during the opening credits, and those happy moments do not fully extend to the entirety of them. In those moments, we see her engaged to be married to the well-meaning and successful Mark (Bryce Johnson), we see flashes of the ceremony scored to a pair of cute toasts, and then we see the floor drop from underneath their feet.

You can probably guess the tragedy, but "Something, Anything" is not a film about the predictability of knowing the situation. Director Paul Harrill's screenplay is compassionate in its study of how Margaret copes beyond this point. Don't get me wrong; sobering as the effort is, it is also distinctly life-affirming by the end, anchored by Shelton's delicate balance. She acts with her eyes, which are wide and searching, yet strangely blank. Her smile is earnest, but it falters before becoming truly over-joyed. It's a tragic shift to see, this bubbly personality to a damaged, devastated soul just faking it for the benefit of those around her.

She is a successful realtor until the tragedy, after which, we can imagine (and only imagine), nothing quite fits the way it used to. She abandons the job to the chagrin of her boss and takes up shelving books at a library. It is from so far back within her past (her high-school days) that we can understand the motivation: It is both familiar--something she knows well enough to take it up again--and mere busy-work--something to keep her mind occupied and off of the gaping hole that the tragedy left in its wake. She gets a haircut--from a long, pretty brunette to a barely-shoulder-length one--because it's just one more thing to separate her from the old life.

These are the smaller decisions that could still be called "drastic," but she makes bigger ones. After learning that Tim (Linds Edwards), an old friend (and possibly flame?), has joined the monastic life smack in the middle of Knoxville, Tennessee (This is also a realistic portrayal of Southerner livelihood), she seriously considers the possibility of seclusion and isolation from the outside life; that Tim has left the monastery presents challenges she did not foresee (Upon commenting that she "didn't realize people could stop," the lead monk of the church states baldly, "Every day is a choice"). It is a personal quandary that haunts "Something, Anything."

And it begs to be repeated: Shelton is up to the challenge. Navigating periods of grief, of self-loathing, of forgiving herself and Mark, of letting go of her pain, the actress (a relative newcomer) is emotionally naked in real ways and makes it seem easy. All of this could potentially have been trite and melodramatic, but Eric V. Hachikian's gentle music score and Jennifer Lilly's editing effectively make genuine feeling a non-issue. "Something, Anything" is a telling title, referring to what we grasp at as humans in the face of heartbreak. This is a devastating study of tragedy and of the light at the end of those dark tunnels, and however old-hat that may sound, the film itself rings wrenchingly true.

Film Information

Ashley Shelton (Margaret/Peggy), Bryce Johnson (Mark), Linds Edwards (Tim), Amy Hubbard (Gina), Lauren Lazarus (Jill), Emily Soleil (Holly), Susanna Rinehart (Susan).

Directed and written by Paul Harrill.

No MPAA rating.

88 minutes.

Released in New York City on January 9, 2015.