What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? (2004) – movie review

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aka What the Bleep Do We Know!?

Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Marlee Matlin, Elaine Hindrix, Barry Newman, Robert Bailey Jr

Directors: William Arntz, Betsy Chase, Mark Vicente

Well, what exactly do you know? You might be forgiven for thinking the title has something to do with a government intelligence program or a nihilistic music video from the punk-rock era. Think again…

The idea of anything ‘quantum’ as common knowledge has become popular in recent years. Different aspects of quantum physics have resulted in a multitude of TV shows – from sci-fi (think the ever-popular QUANTUM LEAP) to various lectures and documentaries. We got used to seeing the difficult subject tackled in an entertaining manner, with some of the shows being not only didactic but also thoroughly fun to watch – even if you came out understanding less than you did before you watched them.

Enter WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW!? a kind of rehashing of the general rules of this subject, told in a narrative courtesy of Marlee Matlin (CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD), whose daily tribulations lead her down the winding, infinite path of atoms, parallel universes and choices. Mixed with authoritative knowledge via interviews with professors and researchers, this is not a different take on quantum physics but rather one that is more easily digested by the average person. A docu-style drama (with all the special effects trimmings) that would probably look just as good on telly, but strangely works on the big-screen simply because you’ve probably never seen something like this before at the cinema. Ever.

If you give it a chance, the film will leave you thoroughly enlightened; it might even change the way you look at the world! A bold statement to make, I know, but when I watched this in a theatre packed with people the result was astounding. Most of them stood around stunned, trying to process what they had just witnessed. It obviously also managed to touch them on a personal level, hence the additional shock.

If quantum physics is your forte, and you have both read and understood any of Einstein’s or Stephen Hawkings’ works, WHAT THE BLEEP will teach you nothing. In fact, to those in the know, the film merely skims the surface, for there is so much more to tell. However, because most of us have not in fact read highly scientific books and more often than not enjoy topics like this in bite-sizes, WHAT THE BLEEP gets the job done well in trying to teach us. A brave effort, for it is not easy to do.

You can’t lose by watching; it’s a trip you won’t forget easily.

4 out of 6 stars