NEW YORK (Reuters) - An ensemble cast led by actors Sam Waterston, Glenn Close and Kristen Stewart numb themselves to the challenges and disappointments of life in "Anesthesia," an indie drama about how a violent act connects the lives of disparate people.
The film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this week and is set in New York City, shows the pain and loneliness of some of the city's occupants.
Waterston is the kind, gentle Columbia University philosophy professor Walter Zarrow whose mugging outside an apartment building in the opening scenes unleashes a series of past events that led up to it.
The film flashes back in time to reveal the lives and relationships of the people in some way impacted by vicious attack.
"Anesthesia" is the fifth feature film by writer-director Tim Blake Nelson, who also plays Waterston's son. It is a film he said he wanted to make since moving to New York in the 1980s but wasn't ready to until now.
"The movie is about people dealing with pain but no place to go with it. One of the ways of dealing is to anesthetize yourself," said Waterston, referring to the film's title.
An Oscar-nominated actor for 1984's "The Killing Fields," Waterston said he felt like someone had been reading his mind when he read the script.
"My character's teachings frame the movie and the argument of his lectures is the challenge of dealing with the painfulness of life in the absence of faith," he said, "in other words, the human condition in the modern world."
The cast includes Michael K. Williams, Jessica Hecht, Gretchen Mol, Gloria Reuben, Corey Stoll and K. Todd Freeman.
Each character has their own way of coping. In a mesmerizing performance, Stewart plays a desperately lonely, self-harming student. Freeman is a drug addict who cannot kick his habit, and Williams is his lawyer friend who tries to help.
Mol is the wine-drinking, suburban housewife and Corey Stoll plays her philandering husband.
Screen International said the "finely acted, tender, drama is one of the surprises of the Tribeca Film Festival."
"It is a movie about the unlikely but inevitable coherence of modern life and how it is more important than ever that we recognize how close we are to one another," said Nelson, "and how much we depend on one another, even though in all likelihood the majority of us will be strangers."
Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Ted Botha