As a film title, God’s Time looks and sounds a lot like Good Time, and the similarities don’t end there. Writer-director Daniel Antebi’s tale of two recovering addicts and best friends making their way through the seedy underbelly of New York City over the course of one eventful night certainly calls to mind the Safdie Brothers’ breakout from 2017, as does its emphasis on style over substance. But where the Safdies’ were able to distill something wholly unique and uncomfortably immersive out of admittedly shopworn parts, God’s Time feels like nothing more than an indie exercise in excess, its stylistic choices both hopelessly dated and frustratingly alienating. Within its first five minutes, Antebi utilizes fourth-wall breaking, frenetically edited montages, whip pans, and overlaid text that annoys more than it stimulates, the desperation practically dripping from the screen.
Best buds Dev (Ben Groh) and Luca (Dion Costelloe) are subsequently introduced at a recovery meeting — something apparently so exotic that the film literally stops dead in its tracks to explain what one is — where various individuals share their tales of woe, including the loquacious spitfire Regina (Liz Caribel Sierra). It’s soon revealed that both men are in love with this headstrong Dominican, even as her various confessions hint at a deeply troubled individual. After one particularly unsettling share session in which Regina vows to kill her ex-boyfriend Russell (Jared Abrahamson) due to his refusal to give back her beloved dog, Dev becomes convinced that she will follow through on her actions. With Luca in tow, the two track Regina across the city, encountering everything from wealthy coke addicts to amusement park-obsessed grandmothers to gunshot wounds.
Taking place over the course of 24 hours and lasting only a scant 83 minutes, God’s Time should, if nothing else, be capable of delivering a hit of propulsive storytelling. But for all of the scandalous happenings and provocative themes on display, nothing of much interest ever happens, each potentially exciting new circumstance proving just as anti-climactic as the last. Where a film like Good Time leveraged its hyper-stylized visual flair and aural bombast to plant the viewer within its protagonist’s horrific predicament, continually ratcheting up the anxiety-inducing tension on the strength of the film’s aesthetic onslaught, Antebi employs such stylistic bluster simply as a means to distract from a script that feels only half-finished. It’s only in the film’s final scene that it, quite ironically, comes to life, as Antebi drops the bullshit theatrics and at last foregrounds his trio of lead actors, with Costelloe delivering a killer monologue that’s keen authenticity clashes with everything that has preceded it. With any luck, God’s Time will propel the talented performer to bigger and better things; indeed, all of the actors here deserve more than this tonal mish-mash and overblown bid at indie cred.
Published as part of Tribeca Film Festival 2022 — Dispatch 1.