‘Love and Other Anxieties’ fails to go anywhere

Urmilla Kuttikad

Image used under fair use doctrine

I walked into the cozy, bright-walled and sofa-stuffed Ragtag theater with high expectations. Upon watching the charming trailer, I decided Lyda Kuth’s “Love and Other Anxieties” just looked like one of those documentaries critics rave about, throwing the words “poignant,” “profound” and “must-see” around. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but, as a critic, those wouldn’t be my choice words.

The idea for the documentary was born when Lyda Kuth’s daughter, Lily, was getting ready to go to college. The thought that Kuth would be alone with her husband again and without her daughter sent Kuth, a self-proclaimed “ruminator,” into a spiral of deep thought.

And oh, how Kuth ruminated (out loud). She ruminated until she could ruminate no more (and then some more). She ruminated so much that my ears wearied of her rumination- and this wouldn’t have been a problem had it not been for the fact that for all of Kuth’s musing, she never arrived at any conclusions.

Kuth set out to make this film trying to re-understand the terms “love,” “attachment” and “commitment,” and she promised herself (and her family) that the documentary wouldn’t be a personal story of her own life, but one of love and attachment and commitment in general.

But somehow, she got lost along the way and the film ended up consisting of almost entirely her own story. She talked to a few other people over the course of the movie about their thoughts on love, but those parts were so few and scattered that they just seemed disjointed from the rest of the story, which focused on her and her husband, Kent, and their daughter, Lily.

Often times, this personal narrative thread can enhance a documentary and make it incredibly powerful, but in this case, I’m not so sure. While one of the things I loved about the film was how real and down-to-earth it was, not relying on stellar video quality or photo-shopped models to manipulate viewers into enjoying the picture, it also meant that Kuth’s “down-to-earth” story didn’t add much power to the plot. Neither did it help Kuth make any solid conclusions about the questions she was seeking to answer.

I wasn’t expecting Kuth to answer the gnarled question “What is love?” for me, but I was expecting some sort of personal realization or conclusion for Kuth herself, and even that didn’t happen. As the minutes dragged on and Kuth’s “ruminating” grew increasingly repetitive, I found myself hoping, begging that Kuth would make some progress on the initial questions she set out to answer before the end of the film. But in the end, she failed to do so.
As I pulled myself out of the depths of my soft, floral-patterned sofa, chewing over my thoughts along with some Welch’s fruit snacks I had snuck in (I’m so very cool, I know), I felt a sense of disappointment. I was acutely aware that instead of paying to see an hour-long repetitive musing, I would have been much better off just watching the trailer, being charmed and leaving it at that.
By Urmila Kutikkad