A Charming Sci-Fi Romance Is Almost Undone by its Ambitions.
Written and Directed by Liz Manashil / 2019
Speed of Life is a low-budget independent movie. It’s got plenty of Sci-Fi seasoning, but the heart of it falls firmly into the romance genre. Written and directed by Liz Manashil, the movie is funny, charming and heart-breaking in turns. It does suffer a bit by lacking a strong thematic through-line to tie all of its disparate elements together. Still, a movie that tries to do too much isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Speed of Life does have a lot to say about a wide variety of subjects and it tries to do so over the course of its 76 minute runtime. The result is that none of these themes are explored with enough depth to make them resonate. You know that Manashil has a lot on her mind about all of this, but the messages are not communicated strongly.
The movie begins on the night of David Bowie’s death in 2016. When June (Allison Tolman, Fargo) hears about it, she’s devastated. Her boyfriend Edward (Ray Santiago, Ash Vs. The Evil Dead) makes a bad joke about it, however, and the two fall into a fight. The fight abruptly ends when Edward falls into a wormhole in the middle of June’s living room. Cut to 24 years later and June (now played by Ann Dowd, Hereditary, Garden State) is still living in the same house, wondering whatever became of Edward. Her questions are answered when Edward is deposited into her living room by the same wormhole. It’s only been a few seconds for him, but the world has changed considerably over the past two and a half decades.
The biggest change is that in 2040, once someone reaches the age of sixty, they are forcibly relocated into government housing and locked away. June is days away from her sixtieth birthday, and she has made plans to flee across the border with a friend played by Jeff Perry. Edwards re-appearance puts their plans in jeopardy, since time is of the essence, but June wants to reconnect with her long-lost love.
All of the actors are really good in this, but Dowd as the older June is the real standout. She’s warm and caring, and sad and regretful, and in love and confused, and sometimes all of that at once. It’s a performance that doesn’t rely on histrionics to pull you into it.
It’s on the strengths of the actors and the individual scenes that lets the movie work as well as it does. Taken as a whole, it doesn’t quite gel, but Manashil constructs each small part of it with a talented hand. She adds enough ‘futuristic’ elements, like the ubiquitous Big-Brother smart speakers in every room, or the fancy holographic display on one characters phone, to invoke the idea of ‘the future’ without having to break her budget on the world building.
Speed of Life is a warm and engaging film. Its script wants to go to so many different places it never can quite reach any of them, but you have to admire its ambition. And in the end, it’s better for a movie to have too much to say than too little, or worse yet, nothing at all.
Speed of Life is available on streaming platforms on January 10, 2020.