Nothing, except everything, the ambitious and head-spinning new short film from 19-year-old filmmaker Wesley Wang, starts with a curious promise: If you ask people to pick a number between one and 10, a third of them will pick seven.
It’s the kind of intriguing data point that might suggest, especially if you’re kind of young, that there’s a logic to the world, some set of facts you can harness and understand with enough reading and contemplation and late-night hypothesizing with your best friends.
Nothing, except everything is about that moment in life, at the end of high school, when you might still harbor a sense of hope that one can impose order on life. Perhaps someday someone will succeed?
Perhaps it will be Wesley Wang. The film arose from his unsettled feelings around what should have felt like a pure achievement: Getting into Harvard, which he now attends, while he was a student at Jericho High School in New York, on the North Shore of Long Island.
“I was a high schooler, and I wanted to make a movie about high schoolers. I felt like there weren’t enough young people making movies about young people. And I was just expressing all my thoughts and feelings with the film, basically,” Wang told MovieMaker at Indy Shorts.
“I got into Harvard and I just felt so unfulfilled for some reason. I was like, ‘What is all this for?’ So I made this super existential movie about life, and young people feeling uncertain, and Generation Z, and how we react to all these things, and how we find meaning in all this chaos. So that’s what the film is, essentially.”
Wesley Wang Before nothing, except everything
The film, which just won one one of the top awards at Indianapolis’ Indy Shorts Film Festival, would be impressive enough on its own merits. Astonishingly, it’s Wang’s third film to have a strong festival run. His short “Eve,” premiered at the Oscar-qualifying LA Shorts International Festival, and his film “Mute” was accepted into the highly regarded Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival.
“Nothing, except everything” seems likely to get the most attention yet, given Wang’s collaborators: It stars David Mazouz (best known as the young Bruce Wayne on Fox’s Batman origin story, Gotham) and Lily Chee (the young Elektra on Netflix’s Daredevil), and is produced by the Oscar-shortlisted Scott Aharoni, co-founder of Cinegryphon Entertainment, whose films have premiered at Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca.
The film delights in the headiness of its daunting search for meaning. It’s fast-moving, expertly shot, and charmingly narrated by Mazouz. We’re in very capable hands with Wang, who is confident enough to infuse the film with a sense of humor that undercuts the potential terror of the big questions about what we’re all doing here.
But the film’s characters are also wise enough to wonder whether this stage of their life will end up meaning anything to them at all. They’re embarking on something big, but they don’t know how big, or whether it will still feel big in the end. It could all be nothing, or everything, or both.