God’s Time details the lengths some will go to in order to protect our animals. In all seriousness, Daniel Antebi’s debut feature is an audacious film about recovery and how those in it go through their crucial steps. With an arsenal of deeply inventive and wickedly clever cinematic tricks, Antebi crafts a film that feels anything but sterile. It is pure chaos, told through the lens of the wildly eccentric Dev dashing across all of New York City, a locale that seemingly breeds rare individuals such as himself. Played by Ben Groh in a breakthrough role, it’s impossible to predict just where his mind will rapidly roam next, and it makes for a genuinely thrilling and riveting 83 minute experience. While Dev brazenly states that “he is not the hero of this story”, we bear witness to his repetitive attempts at deciding to wear the cape of a savior; And all the mayhem that ensues because of those decisions.
As Dev brings the audience deeper into his world of offering a lighter to strangers on the streets, biking down 5th Avenue to his theme song (which he insists is not his theme song), and running lines with his best friend, Luca, Antebi stages the rules by which this story will abide, and then immediately proceeds to show they can all be broken at a moment’s notice. But Antebi’s brilliance lies far beyond breaking his own rules; instead, it lies in breaking the age old rules of cinema in one fell swoop. Through an outstanding performance from Groh, Dev demands attention by his presence alone, but even when the audience may look elsewhere, he directly reminds us that he should be the center of attention. His main character syndrome takes full effect, and in many ways, it is his narrative. We as the viewer are quite literally dragged alongside him and Luca as they chase fellow recovering addict Regina around the streets of New York. As Ben and Luca cause havoc wherever they turn up, the film takes on a cyclical sort of nature. It works visually, but Antebi clearly adds thematic value to the decisions made throughout God’s Time in a manner that merges style with substance.
Intentionally over-stimulating as the film begins, Antebi places the camera on Dev and it wouldn’t be shocking to assume the direction was simply: “Go absolutely nuts”. What follows is a whiplash introduction to the key characters of the film, as well as the type of world they find themselves to be residing in. Yet even with all this cinematic pandemonium, God’s Time is able to not just slow down, but jam the proverbial foot on the brakes and smash through the floor of the vehicle. Coming to such an abrupt halt and being able to still allow dramatic, emotional beats to be so affecting is deeply impressive. Going zero to a hundred and vice versa is an understatement for this film, and something that it does a plethora of times with great success. When paired over moments of smooth jazz and soft push-ins, it’s not difficult to notice Antebi’s acute understanding of how to frame a scene, especially within the context of the rest of the film. The energy God’s Time exudes is incredibly palpable both visually and sonically, full of surprises that ensued during its creation, which Antebi uses to maximum effect. “For a lot of the score, you’re hearing different instrumentalists playing while watching it for the first time and just reacting to the picture as it’s happening, which is what gives it a lot of the surprises”, said Antebi on how the music of the film was put together. This is just one of the many inventive approaches this debut film takes to elevate it to levels that seem unfathomable even to veterans of cinema.
And as the whole film builds to a climax that flips all its characters, and subsequently the viewer, on their heads, one thing is certain: Antebi, as well as the entire cast and crew involved, know how to grip a viewer and simply never let go. As one of the first independent films shot in New York City during the pandemic, Antebi stated “We were reclaiming filmmaking and the city by creating art together”. He also sees the film as “A celebration of community, of our relationships and the new perspectives they give us”. It’s a wonderful celebration of life in a film that could have been far more dark, especially when being made in a particularly nightmarish time in human history. Yet, God’s Time would never take the easy, cookie-cutter route of making a film. From the moment it begins, to all that we see during the credits, this film clearly served as a cathartic form of expression.
Creating this work of art came from collaboration, and a sense of teamwork and drive spurned by a time that forced us all to shut ourselves in. While being forced to look inwards is not always ideal, it made a few things abundantly clear. One of the most primary forces that drive us as people is the need to tell stories. Through stories, we build ourselves, as well as others, up. People we know can become different beings in our heads through the stories we tell or hear about them. And as these stories become shared among others, it allows people to work through their own stories. As these lives and tales intertwine with one another, they become easier to break down and work through whatever may be causing an issue; Be it an abusive partner, a liar In your life, substance abuse, etc. Perhaps most importantly, this film serves as a beacon of hope, or in the case of a strong support system, many beacons of hope. There is no single solution to every problem humans may face, but the best start is usually by turning to those next to us. And as zany as God’s Time can be, it simply serves as a protective shell to the empathetic core within.
God’s Time celebrated its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Tickets for screenings and more information on the film can be found right here.