Chad Smith’s review published on Letterboxd:
I wouldn't call this movie anxious or stressful. At least for me, anxiety is about fretting over things you can't control AND which you place far more importance on than you should. It's a combination of uncertainty and a lack of control. You don't know how someone will react if you try to interact with them-- be it taking to a group or trying to befriend someone-- so that anxiety builds up. You don't want to be rejected or laughed at, because you have no control over that outcome and you also project this image of "rejection" as being far worse than it likely will be.
This is a movie about DREAD. The outcome is predetermined BECAUSE of Howard's actions. He's completely in control of his downward spiral, in the sense that he's made deliberate decisions that have led to this sequence of events. He's sick. He needs help. He's likely needed help for a long time. But he's also all too aware of what he's doing and does it all without any real hesitation. As outside observers, we know that the BEST outcome is that he loses, loses big, and has to drag himself back to whatever meager life he has left, begging for forgiveness and healing. And the worst outcome is that everything ends not just for him, but for everyone he gives a damn about.
For me that's the difference between anxiety and doom. Anxiety is believing you're the omniscient god in a world you don't comprehend. Doom is living with a predetermined outcome and willingly taking the steps to lead to that inevitability, thinking that your free will matters.
Then again, this would be a story about anxiety for Howard. He's living in that moment. He doesn't know that his actions are going to lead in this direction. He doesn't know if he has colon cancer or not. He doesn't know if the Celtics and Kevin Garnet are going to pull off those wins. But we, the audience, know. We can look up the outcome of those games online. We know the beats that these sorts of movies follow. Maybe not point for point, but we know this is NOT going to end well.
We have that omniscience. Howard doesn't.
Man is a creature of anxiety, as everything is uncertain for him.
God is a creature of doom, as everything has already happened and it's just a matter of time.
Which is worse? Probably whichever one you're currently experiencing.