Review by Sean Boelman
Speed of Life, the second feature film from writer-director Liz Manashil, is a quirky new indie rom-com that blends genres in a refreshingly seamless way. Witty, insightful, and featuring an ingenious and thoroughly creative concept, this ends up being one of the first big surprises of the new decade.
The movie tells the story of a couple who are torn apart by a wormhole upon the death of David Bowie, only to be reunited twenty-four years later when one suddenly appears unchanged since their disappearance in 2016. Even though this plot is confoundingly difficult to describe on paper in a way that makes it sound remotely reasonable, it works shockingly well in practice thanks to the nuance Manashil brings to the script.
While a lot of suspension of disbelief is required in the premise of David Bowie’s death causing a rift to open in the universe, the film is otherwise relatively grounded for a sci-fi movie. The portion of the film set in 2040 presents a vision of the future which, while organized differently than current society, isn’t unrealistic and is based in trends that can be observed in the way the modern world functions currently.
The film also does a very good job of building its world on a visual level. Despite the movie’s low budget nature, Manashil is able to create a futuristic feeling in the movie with the use of a few props, sleek composition, and a changing aspect ratio. The visual effects, when used sparingly, are surprisingly strong, and the set design is minimalistic but effective.
Apart from the more obvious messaging about true love, the film also offers an interesting exploration of the way in which society approaches the elderly. The second act of the movie plays out in a very satirical way, featuring an over-the-top dystopia that abandons the elderly the moment at which they are perceived to be less productive.
A significant part of what makes this film work so well is its excellent character development. The first fifteen minutes of the movie allow the viewer to buy into the characters lives before the film takes its more extreme turn. Because of this legitimate connection that they will form with the characters, the audience will more willingly suspend their disbelief regarding the genre-driven elements of the movie.
The acting in the film is also quite good. Character actress Ann Dowd gives a phenomenal lead performance in the movie as the heartbroken soul holding out hope for her long lost love. Her performance has so much humanity and emotion that one can’t help but pity her. Ray Santiago and Allison Tolman are the main supporting players, and they are both very funny in their roles.
Speed of Life is an ambitious indie film that really shouldn’t have worked, but it is ridiculously charming nonetheless. Inspired by the spirit and work of David Bowie, filmmaker Manashil had her eyes on the stars, and it paid off.
Speed of Life hits VOD on January 10.