Film: Speed of Life

Sometimes rooting for a quirky, indie film is the only thing that pulls me through it. Such was the case with Speed of Life (2019), a modest, underwhelming science fiction drama with a good cast but mediocre material. When a struggling young couple, June (Allison Tolman) and Eddie (Ray Santiago), get home from a night out in 2016, they learn of the death of David Bowie, which breaks June’s heart. Eddie’s cavalier reaction leads to an epic fight between them, but before they can resolve the dispute, Eddie vanishes through a mysterious portal. Fast forward twenty-four years, when an older June (Ann Dowd), still living in the same house, is suffering under the nebulous, invasive home monitoring of 2040. As her sixtieth birthday approaches, she’s on the verge of forced retirement when Eddie stumbles through time from 2016 and re-enters her life.

Speed of Life, as the title implies, is about confronting our tragically finite lifespan, and worrying over whether we’re making the most of our time. On that score, its thoughtful reflections provide good moments for the cast, especially Dowd, Tolman, and Santiago, but also supporting characters played by Vella Lovell and Jeff Perry. Unfortunately, as science fiction it’s decidedly inexpert. The central, metaphorical conceit—the time portal—is deployed well enough to illustrate the theme and drive the story, but that unexplained mystery clashes with the half-baked furniture of 2040 futurism, which feels tossed off and shallow. The result is a skiffy identity crisis: a decent philosophical allegory that undercuts its mission with unconvincing surface world-building. For all its earnestness, then, the film doesn’t succeed as SF, and the other elements—the dialogue, the plot beats, the cinematography—aren’t quite impressive enough to make up for it.

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