Addiction and recovery can rarely be framed as a joke. Yet every once in a while, a film can emerge from the dark subject matter and deliver realism about the experience. It’s a fine line to walk, but life is not a solemn affair when in recovery. Instead, there are ups and downs, struggles and triumphs. God’s Time, the debut feature from Daniel Antebi, mostly succeeds on its journey. Striking a manic tone that resembles Blindspotting and Birdman‘s screenplay, God’s Time delivers laughs and incredible tension.
During a meeting, Regina (Liz Caribel) strays from her usual story. The slight change in tone alerts Dev (Ben Groh), an excitable but loyal friend. While Dev crushes on Regina, he’s never told her and wants to support her recovery. His mind jumps to conclusions, namely that he thinks Regina is going to kill her ex-boyfriend for taking her dog. With the help of his best friend Luca (Dion Costelloe), the two men track Regina down at other meetings. Their goal? To stop her before she does something drastic.
Groh masterfully spits hundreds of words of exposition in mere minutes. It’s an impressive feat, and helps bring out Antebi’s vision. It’s clear, he needs God’s Time to establish it’s pace early, and Groh makes it work. Beyond his ability to navigate the rat-a-tat dialogue, Groh uses his extremely expressive face to deliver additional subtext to each moment. At times, he even tips into truths about his life that he simply has not had time to vocalize. It makes for an impressive leading role, and in the right hands, he will shine as a scene-stealer.
Meanwhile, Costelloe gets standout dramatic moments. When given the chance to slow down the story, he dominates the screen. A monologue towards the end of the film really showcases his ability to work through emotions in real-time, while drawing the audience into the struggle. He displays chemistry with Groh but lights the screen on fire when paired with Caribel. The two add a sexual tension into the story that adds additional layers of complexity to God’s Time.
Caribel gets the biggest role in terms of showy sequences. While Groh and Costelloe remain level as they battle their addiction, Caribel must attack every scene as a woman grasping for meaning. She battles for emotional balance, but when the world turns against those with substance abuse issues, relapse becomes likely. Without her performance, you might not believe the two protagonists could be manipulated so easily. Yet Caribel adds enough charm to make you understand why Luca and Dev would be obsessed, but still displays the red flags at every turn.
While Antebi certainly shows talent, God’s Time defers to other works a little too often. It’s not a bad thing to nod to your influences, especially when someone like 1980’s Spike Lee is so integral to one’s approach. Yet, this also means God’s Time cannot quite step out of its box. It’s almost as if the audience can feel Antebi pulling back on the reigns, rather than letting his characters go a step too far. They certainly do bad, horrible, and awful things over the course of the film, but God’s Time also feels a little too clean in the end.
God’s Time delivers more than enough excitement to make it worthy of yours. With three performances that play off each other, and a fun screenplay, you might find yourself enraptured. At the same time, playing off other films and playing into some tropes stop it from fully feeling unique. For a debut, Antebi displays considerable talent and the cast should find themselves on call sheets in the very near future.