The awards given out at the annual Tribeca Festival are not exactly watched with the same intensity as those from Sundance or Cannes; the festival has grown into a variety of film, TV, audio, videogame and reunion events, particularly known for a strong documentary line-up, that the movies competing for the U.S. Narrative prizes don’t always get a lot of attention. That said, it was still jarring to look over the awards from the 2022 jury and find that the NYC-centric God’s Time received just one: A Special Jury Prize for the performance of newcomer Liz Caribel Sierra. She deserves the attention, but so does the rest of the film—the best of the dozen-plus Tribeca features I watched this year.
Maybe jurists were put off by the movie’s resemblance to the work of the Safie Brothers, whose brand of scuzzy thrills are admittedly difficult to imitate well—especially without an image-tweaking movie star at the center. It’s not just in the title of God’s Time, which is a few characters away from being Good Time; Daniel Antebi’s film also shares that movie’s frantic, ticking-clock New York pace. Actually, “ticking clock” doesn’t quite cover it. It’s more like a clock that’s supposed to be ticking, before stopping abruptly without the characters knowing, making them both late and in desperate need of a new clock.
The clock-losers here are Dev (Ben Groh) and Luca (Dion Costelloe): Loyal besties, recovering addicts and possibly actors, though that’s more Luca’s thing; Dev goes along to auditions as his scene partner. They zip between those auditions and a bunch of 12-step meetings, taking in the familiar faces and listening to the familiar stories, which is how Dev has found himself infatuated with Regina (Liz Caribel Sierra). Dev explains all of this directly to the camera—though, in a neat goof on the practice of fourth-wall-breaking, he’s far from an authority on everyone on screen. For example, he doesn’t seem to pick up on the clear connection between Luca and Regina even as he turns on the camera to offer commentary. Or maybe wills himself to ignore it.
At meeting after meeting, Regina recites her trademark addict story, about how her boyfriend betrayed her and even took her dog, and how she wishes the worst upon him, before concluding that he’ll be punished karmically, “in God’s time.” When she alludes to getting a gun, and leaves out the bit about “God’s time,” alarm bells go off within Dev, and he becomes convinced that she’s planning to kill her ex (and retrieve her dog)—on her own time. Luca isn’t so sure at first, but what can he do? He loves Dev, and he loves Regina too. They decide to track her down and stop her, less concerned with the human life at the end of her gun than the damage this might do to her life and halting recovery.
Their mission is full of asides, digressions, blunders and on-screen introductory text in a font that I choose to believe is knowingly cheesy. It’s easy to imagine writer/director Antebi admiring the darkly funny grit of Good Time, but God’s Time also recalls Blindspotting (albeit less serious-minded) and some of the more fanciful moments in Spike Lee movies. It takes its characters and their various perils—addictions, guns, revenge, heartbreak, cycling in New York—seriously, yet its spirits remain strangely elevated. The Tribeca write-up describes it as a dark comedy, and though that description is technically accurate, it also doesn’t quite do it justice. Antebi sets his own tone and masters it. The movie has the rush and the desperation of a fresh start.
The actors are refreshing, too—and it makes sense that the Tribeca jury zeroed in on Sierra, in an assured film acting debut. Regina is a familiar type and an equally familiar commentary on that type: The damsel in distress whose agency and point-of-view some clueless guys opt to downplay in their attempt to save her. Sierra’s performance and Antebi’s direction make that elusiveness part of her character; the less Dev and Luca understand about her situation, the fuller and better-drawn she seems. God’s Time may seem like a slight, calling-card undertaking at 83 minutes—or even a touch self-congratulatory as it rolls fake ads and footage of its actors hamming it up over the end credits. But beneath its bravado, there’s a real sense of New York life.
Director: Daniel Antebi
Writer: Daniel Antebi
Starring: Ben Groh, Dion Costelloe, Liz Caribel Sierra
Release Date: June 10, 2022 (Tribeca)
Jesse Hassenger writes about movies and other pop-culture stuff for a bunch of outlets including The A.V. Club, Polygon, The Week, NME, and SportsAlcohol.com, where he also has a podcast. Following @rockmarooned on Twitter is a great way to find out about what he’s watching, listening to, or eating.