As one of the male characters in this nine-part film says: "We are all connected to everyone and everything on this planet." Yet we continue through habit to feel separate from others; and on many days, we look for creative ways to disconnect with someone we are angry at or disappointed with for some reason.
Writer and director Rodrigo Garcia, the son of the novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, has come up with an emotionally satisfying collection of nine different women's experiences with relationships. Their stories chart the emotional gamut, from dread to excitement to anxiety to hope across the whole rainbow of human feeling.
Each story is staged in a continuous shot lasting between ten and fourteen minutes. To make vivid his point about the subtle ties that link people together, some of the characters who appear in one drama show up in another.
Sandra (Elpida Carrillo) has been in the L.A.Country Jail for a while. When we first meet her, she is seen mopping the floor in an effort to prove that she is exhibiting good behavior. But despite her attempt to impress the guards, her anger gets the best of her when a phone goes dead while she's talking to her daughter, who she only gets to see once a month.
Pregnant Diane (Robin Wright Penn) bumps into Damian (Jason Isaacs), an old lover of hers from ten years ago. When he confesses that he still thinks of her, she is discombobulated. Their encounter drains her energy and then arouses her feelings for him.
Holly (Lisa Gay Hamilton) is a nervous African-American woman visiting her sister with the intention of facing her stepfather, who she has refused to see for a long time. When they finally stand eye to eye, her real mission becomes clear.
Sonia (Holly Hunter) and her boyfriend Martin (Stephen Dillane) shock another couple by airing some startling details from their private lives, setting everyone on edge.
Teenager Samantha (Amanda Seyfreid) serves as a caretaker for her wheelchair ridden father (Ian McShane) and her exhausted mother Ruth (Sissy Spacek). Although both her parents want her to go to school and spread her wings, she wants to stay with them and help out around the house.
Lorna (Amy Brenneman) is attending the funeral of her ex-husband's new wife, who committed suicide. Her discomfort with the situation is compounded by the harsh things others express to her. She is even more taken back by her ex-husband's sexual yearning for her after he takes her to a private room at the funeral home.
Ruth (Sissy Spacek) meets with Henry (Aidan Quinn) at a motel for a night of love. Both are very nervous. He tries his best to be romantic, but she disconnects from him after seeing the police take away a woman in another room. When Ruth decides to go into the stranger's room, Ruth discovers more than she can handle.
Camille (Kathy Baker) is another woman who has more on her plate than she can handle. Hospitalized for breast cancer, she roils against her predicament and sorely tests the patience and love of her husband Richard (Joe Mantegna).
And in the final story, Maggie (Glenn Close) is at a family cemetery plot with her daughter Maria (Dakota Fanning) who has more questions than she can believe.
Scott Russell Sanders has wisely written: "There are no backwaters. There is only one river, and we are all in it. Wave your arms, and the ripples will eventually reach me."