Directed by: Daniel Antebi
Distributed by: TBD
Written by Anna Harrison
“God’s Time” feels as if the city of New York was perfectly distilled down into 83 minutes: frantic, colorful, vulgar, and ultimately full of heart. Daniel Antebi’s debut feature will undoubtedly draw comparisons to the Safdie brothers with its claustrophobic atmosphere (helped by the tight 4:3 aspect ratio), but he manages to carve out his own niche with an assured sense of tone that far more established filmmakers still struggle with, hurtling through “God’s Time” with finesse even as the film moves so quickly it gets hard to keep up.
He’s helped, as most good directors are, by a talented cast in Ben Groh, Dion Costelloe, and newcomer Liz Caribel Sierra, each one possessing an intense onscreen magnetism: here are some interesting faces, not the run-of-the-mill bland hotness so often seen in movies nowadays. Each of the three play recovering addicts: there’s the (relatively) mild-mannered Luca (Costelloe), the crass and aggressive Regina (Sierra), and our narrator, Dev (Groh). We never learn much about their addictions, only that they happened—“God’s Time” is not interested in the melodrama so often played across our screens when former addicts take the focus. They’re in recovery, and that’s that, though “recovery” can be a slippery slope, and Regina in particular seems to struggle with it.
Dev has been besotted with Regina since he laid eyes on her, and he knows her opening spiel in their NA meetings by heart: she relays the same story about her addiction, her ex-boyfriend, and more importantly, their split, in which he took her dog. Regina wants to kill him but restrains herself, knowing it will come cosmically in “God’s time” (oh, look, it’s the title of the movie), but when one day she neglects to add that crucial phrase, Dev suspects something is wrong, and we begin our mad dash through the streets of New York to try and stop a murder.
Dev is a livewire of a man: he’s going in eighty different directions at once and consequently he’s moving nowhere. The neon lights, the jazz score, the erratic fourth wall breaks Dev has a penchant for (which eventually come back around to bite him in the ass) all contribute to the erratic nature of the character, and while this could be too much—and maybe it is, at some point, especially coupled with Regina’s own impulsiveness—Luca is there to bring everyone back to earth, though there’s still a twitchy anxiety permeating throughout the movie, no matter how much Luca tries to get Dev and Regina to calm down.
If there are complaints to be made, it’s that the film pivots tone a little too much at the very end and Regina’s character remains a bit too much like a plot device in the film—though “God’s Time” very much interrogates and deconstructs the “male savior” trope, it does so only by pointing on the flaws in said trope, not by giving much depth to Regina, at least compared to Dev and luca (though Sierra gives it her all). “I’m not a character in Dev’s world and you definitely ain’t a character in mine,” she says at one point, and while it’s good to hear her call out Dev (and Luca) on their bullshit, it would be stronger if Regina had a bit more substance to back her up.
But there is something—quite a lot, as a matter of fact—to be said for Antebi’s bold debut, and especially for the trio of performers at its center. As both a directorial and performance showcase it sings, even if the writing doesn’t always keep up, but it’s hard to complain when “God’s Time” missteps simply because it swings for the fences and, quite often, hits the mark. It’s more than a lot of other films can do.