Tim Blake Nelson (USA, 1964) was a playwright
with plays such as "Eye of God" (1992), "The Grey Zone" (1996) and "Anadarko" (1998)
before becoming one of
Joel Coen's favorite actors.
He adapted two of his own plays into films,
Eye of God (1997) and The Grey Zone (2001).
O (2001) is an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Othello" transposed to a US high school.
Leaves of Grass (2009)
Anesthesia (2015) is a thriller of sorts. We know the crime from the
beginning and then we have to guess who is the perpetrator of all the people
who are presented, whose lives end up intersecting at that fateful moment.
Philosophy professor Walter Zarrow is wounded during a mugging. In an effort to escape he rings buzzers indiscriminately, waking Sam, a middle-aged father of two having an affair in the city. Sam reluctantly answers Zarrow's pleas, and Zarrow loses consciousness in his arms. Through an exploration of why these men, along with the mugger, and an addict named Joe, come together, we explore New York City. The experience of Zarrow, Sam, Joe and Zarrow's assailant ripple quickly out to include the connected lives of a housewife struggling with alcoholism, a stoner teen desperate to lose his virginity, a brilliant but failed writer fighting addiction, two parents confronting the prospect of terminal illness, and a brilliant grad student who harms herself to feel alive.
A couple is asleep. Suddenly, someone rings the bell. The woman picks up and
hears a man calling for help. The man, Sam, walks downstairs to open the door
and finds an old man lying on the ground, seriously wounded. Before losing
consciousness, the old man asks Sam to give the flowers to his wife because
he never missed a friday and something about "planting cabbages".
Police cars arrive.
A flashback shows us the victim, Walter, a
professor of philosophy, as he is teaching a class to his students.
Later he has lunch with his son Adam, who tells him that his wife
Jill may have ovarian cancer.
Meanwhile, in the university cafeteria a male student
takes a chair from the table where a female student is sitting alone.
She gets upset, but the male student points out that it is the only available
chair in the whole cafeteria and then calls her a selfish lonely bitch.
Meanwhile, a housewife named Sarah is picking up her daughters at school.
Meanwhile, Adam's son Hal is maturbating in his bedroom. His
sister Ella interrupts him and they walk to the roof to smoke pot together.
Meanwhile, a wealthy black man, Jeffrey, shows up in the apartment of his
friend Joe, who is a drug addict. Jeffrey has hired a
strong man, Cedar, to drag Joe to a detox clinic.
Jill and Adam see the doctor and a surgery is scheduled for the friday.
Back home their neighbor is waiting for them: he tells them that he has seen
their kids smoke pot on the roof.
Sarah's friend Meredith helps her with the children. Sarah's husband calls from
Walter the philosopher buys flowers like every friday for his wife Marcia.
He tells her that he has decided to retire.
Adam and Jill interrogate Hal and Ella who admit that they smoke pot every
single day. They don't show much respect for their father. Adam tells them that their mother Jill could have cancer and will have surgery.
Jeffrey and Cedar escort Joe to the clinic, where he is welcomed by a doctor
who already treated him before. Joe is not a bum: he used to be a promising
writer but wasted his life after he got a drug addict.
Jeffrey tells the doctor that he will pay on behalf of Joe's father.
The doctor reminds Jeffrey that Joe has history of theft and violence.
Joe wants one last dose of drugs before going to clinic and the doctor
has to summon nurses to drag Joe inside and strap him to a bed.
Sarah tells Meredith that her husband is lying: she heard sirens during
their phone call and she knows those are not Chinese. Her husband is obviously
hiding. Sarah moved from the big city to suburbia. After Meredith leaves,
her daughter finds her crying and drinking wine.
Her husband Sam is in fact with a lover. The lover tells him that she is 33
and wants children soon.
Walter the philosopher leaves for his last day of teaching. He talks with a
troubled student, Sophie, the lonely bitch, who is desperate about life.
She shows him that she has been huring her arms and legs with a
Hal meets up with his girlfriend Amy. They are both virgin. They kiss and she
invites him to have their first sex at her house while her parents are away.
Sam and his lover are touring a nursery when suddenly Sam recognizes his
daughter among the class that is visiting. Sam runs out hiding his face.
Walter the philosopher takes Sophie to a psycologist.
Joe wakes up strapped to a hospital bed and
doctor tells him that he has only one year to live.
Jeffrey is a lawyer. He meets his rival Rachel in a cocktail lounge.
She kisses him in the elevator and he forgets to call Joe, who is waiting for
his call at the hospital.
Hal tells his father Adam that he wants to spend the friday with a friend,
but his father reminds him that it's the friday of his mother's surgery
and forbids him to leave the house, which screws up his plans to lose his
virginity with Amy.
Sam's wife Sarah takes the girls to music lessons and in the car her
rebellious older daughter insults her calling her an alcoholic.
Sarah tells her how miserable her life is.
Back home Sarah disposes of all wine bottles.
Rachel and Jeffrey spend the morning in court.
Joe calls Jeffrey in vain just as the trial is beginning.
Joe tells the nurse that Jeffrey was his childhood buddy.
Joe is released from the clinit. He is
disappointed that Jeffrey forgot about him.
It is friday. Jill undergoes surgery.
Walter announces to his students that he is retiring.
Joe steals a bag on the bus and spends the money to buy drugs.
Walter walks back home with Sophie, who reluctantly surrenders the curling
iron with which she's been hurting herself to feel alive.
Walter stops by the flower shop and, like every friday, he buys flowers for
his wife. Joe is there and asks him for money to buy drugs.
Joe quotes Augustine, revealing his literate background. Walter only accepts
to buy him food.
Another black man follows Walter home and attacks him with a knife.
That's when Walter frantically pushes all the buzzers.
Joe sees the attach and intervenes to stop the mugger. The mugger stabs Joe
Now we are back to the first scene. The man who opens the door is Sarah's
husband Sam, who is staying there with his lover when he's supposed to be
in China. When Sam opens the door, he finds Walter unconscious and Joe dead.
Adam and Jill get back home after the surgery. The good news is that Jill has
no cancer. The bad news is that her son Hal is not there. His sister Ella
candidly tells them the truth, that Hal is losing his virginity.
Joe's body is at the morgue. Adam and his mother are at hospital,
where Walter is in a coma.
Sam meets them and tells Walter's wife that Walter's last words was to give
her the flowers because he never missed a friday and... something about
planting cabbages. She recognizes a quote from Michel de Montaigne:
"I want death to find me planting my cabbages, indifferent to it and even more indifferent to the unfinished garden."
The following morning
Sam calls his wife Sarah. She doesn't want him anymore.
Jeffrey is devastated to read in the news about Joe's death.
Hal visits granpa Walter who is still in a coma.