Long time New York resident and filmmaker Tim Blake Nelson wonders if our quality of life has improved due to our obsessions with technology, or if it removes us too much from connecting with people which for generations has given us purpose.
In doing research for his latest film project, Anesthesia, Nelson raised several questions about the way we live in the modern world. He asks, "Are we happier today? More fulfilled? Do we live as completely as those alive a century ago?" He adds, "Is there any room left for the sort of introspection that defines us as human?" Nelson explores the value we put on human life with regard to dignity and develops a compelling storyline using an all-star cast to answer his questions in Anesthesia.
Nelson also wonders if we are becoming less connected to those around us. His research helps him dig deeper and asks if we are aware of the needs of our neighbors. If not, why? Have we become anesthetized to our own life struggles? Is life all about me? Do our obsessions put us to sleep or numb our senses toward the people around us? Nelson writes, directs, produces and acts in his latest project that puts a different twist on thedefinition of anesthesia. The literal meaning states, without sensation. No feeling. Nelson focuses on the lives of four men in a particular New York neighborhood. One day their lives become connected over a horrific tragedy. How they each react is a picture of how they have been anesthetized to the world around them.
Professor Walter Zarrow (Sam Waterston) takes the subway to his teaching job to and from work daily. A man of meager means. Happy and approaching retirement. At the end of every day, he stops at the local florist and brings home a bouquet of flowers to his wife (Glenn Close) and tells her he loves her. Not a day goes by without his kind gesture. He's a fulfilled man because he reaches out to the people around him.
Walter tells the beggar at the corner store that if he is really hungry, he can have something to eat every day that amounts to $5.00 and he will pay for it every time. Walter is willing to help him if he is sincerely in need. The beggar takes to heart the kindness. And, accepts.
Walter intervenes when he observers a couple of women being harassed by an addict up to no good. Angered by Walter's fatherly intervention, the man follows Walter home to teach him a lesson.
Sam (Corey Stoll) is having an affair with a younger woman in the neighborhood. His wife confronts him and asks that he choose between her and the kids or the younger woman. In utter turmoil, Sam contemplates more than just the affair but the reasons for it. Caught up in a world where the high tech industry demands so much of him he becomes numb to the needs of family life. His obsession with selfish indulgences remove him from reality.
These four men (Walter, the beggar, the addict and Sam) meet on the street, in their neighborhood, one night. Nelson's portrayal of each man's backstory tell us why their lives intersect. The choice whether or not to value human life over selfish ambition is each man's destiny.