“Everything is very, very bad,” a television newscaster deadpans in “I’ve Got Issues,” Steve Collins’s surreal comedy of despair and deliverance. Superficially timeless and apolitical, yet deeply informed by the psychic wounds of our current moment, the movie observes collective pain with endearing absurdity.
Working with a small stable of reliable actors (including Macon Blair, Claire Titelman, John Merriman and Byron Brown), Collins builds many small stories into a larger canvas of coping. (Or not, as the case may be.) In these intertwined vignettes, characters search for meaning while facing a variety of fears and challenges, from the mundane (wrangling an obstreperous photocopier) to the cataclysmic (nuclear war).
“They struggle,” Jim Gaffigan’s narrator observes unnecessarily, and so does the movie, with some sections inevitably more successful than others. Even so, this low-budget dance of desperation has such affection for its hurting souls that their weirdness isn’t the issue it could have been. As they seek to soothe themselves with spiritual pursuits and good deeds, the sight gags (like a hilariously inept yoga class) only supplement the dreamily dread-filled mood.
“I’ve Got Issues” is Collins’s first narrative feature in almost a decade (after the ineffably tender “You Hurt My Feelings” in 2012). It isn’t a pretty picture, in either sense of the word, but it is a profoundly empathetic one. And if you yield to its oddball rhythms, the movie’s questioning innocence and arc toward hope might just persuade you to tag along.