As I am a foreigner, I have great difficulty differentiating the sounds /æ/ and /e/ . When spoken softly, it becomes almost impossible for me to discern the sounds. Such as this one from movie Inception at 2:06 (...Saito knows. He's playing with us. Dicaprio: It doesn't "MATTER".)
Matter here almost sounds like "MEtter". As such, I am frustrated by such hardship.
Are /æ/ and /e/ always distinguished when spoken? I always make sure that I emphasize the vowel sound when I speak so as to achieve the best clarity I possibly can. However, it seems that when native speakers speak, the difference becomes extremely subtle or just indistinguishable. Is it only me? And if so, what should I do to attain the ability to hear such difference?