Review: ‘God’s Time,’ starring Ben Groh, Dion Costelloe and Liz Caribel Sierra

June 20, 2022

by Carla Hay

Ben Groh and Dion Costelloe in “God’s Time” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“God’s Time”

Directed by Daniel Antebi

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the comedy film “God’s Time” features a racially diverse cast of characters (Asian, white, Latino and African American) representing the working-class and the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two best friends, who met each other in an addiction recovery support group, try to stop a woman in their support group from murdering her ex-boyfriend. 

Culture Audience: “God’s Time” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching rambling “race against time” movies where the potential and talent of the cast members cannot overcome low-quality filmmaking.

Dion Costelloe and Liz Caribel Sierra in “God’s Time” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

The smug and idiotic comedy “God’s Time” is a waste of time in how it inexcusably bungles a simple but over-used slapstick concept of two friends on a wacky “life or death” mission. Sloppily written and directed by Daniel Antebi, the basic premise of “God’s Time” is about two male best friends who try to stop a woman from murdering her ex-boyfriend. There’s not as much action in “God’s Time” as the concept suggests, because too much of the film has repetitive and dull scenes of people in support group meetings for addiction recovery.

“God’s Time” doesn’t get going with any real action until the last third of the movie. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing if it’s to build up suspense, and if the action in the movie delivers in a way that’s unique and memorable. But the action that comes very late in the movie is poorly staged and written in such an amateurish way, any hope gets squashed that “God’s Time” will go out with a bang. The end of the movie can barely muster a whimper. “God’s Time,” which is Antebi’s feature-film directorial debut, had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

The two best pals in “God’s Time” (which was filmed on location in New York City) are two men in their 20s named Dev (played by Ben Groh) and Luca (played by Dion Costelloe), who are both aspiring actors. You might as well just call them Dumb and Dumber, because that’s how Dev and Luca act in this movie. Dev is the story’s narrator, and he frequently talks directly to the camera to spew a lot of self-indulgent gibberish.

Dev explains early on in the movie that he and Luca met in a support group meeting for recovering drug addicts. They’ve been best friends ever since. They go on auditions together, they help each other rehearse for auditions, and they go to support group meetings.

Luca and Dev apparently have nothing else going on in their lives but going to support group meetings and going to auditions. That’s how boring these two shallow pals are in this movie. The movie never explains how these two unemployed and unsuccessful wannabe actors make money.

Dev thinks of himself as being more of a rebel than Luca. For example, the two friends have an upcoming audition where Dev is going up for the role of a firefighter named Rico from Staten Island. Luca thinks that Dev should cut Dev’s long-ish hair for the role, so Dev could look more like a firefighter. However, Dev refuses to cut his hair. Dev is also frequently annoyed that his Indian heritage is often mistaken for being Latino. The movie has some unfunny jokes about Dev’s ethnicity being misidentified.

The beginning of “God’s Time” actually starts off with a promising scene. Dev, Luca and some other people in their support group are gathered for a meeting. A very outspoken and opinionated member of the group is Regina (played by Liz Caribel Sierra), who is also in her 20s. Regina makes a point of bitterly mentioning in every meeting how she was betrayed by an ex-boyfriend named Russell about a year ago.

Regina, whose name is pronounced in the Spanish-language way (“re-hee-na”), angrily repeats in every meeting the details of what went wrong in this doomed relationship: Regina let Russell temporarily stay at her place while he was recovering from spleen surgery. Two months into this temporary stay, things went horribly wrong, but what they argued about remains unclear.

As Regina tells it: “The aforementioned dirtbag kicked me out of my own place and took my little dog Parranda.” Regina likes to show photos of the dog, which is a Boxer. Dev looks into the camera and says after Regina tells her sob story in yet another meeting: “Yo, it’s all true. I remember the day he kicked her out.”

The movie has a montage of Regina in different meetings telling similar versions of the same story. Even though Regina says some hateful things about Russell, such as wishing that she could kill him or that he should die some other way, she always ends her rant by saying that she is praying for Russell. “And I have faith he’ll die in God’s time,” she concludes.

Dev has his own confession, which he only tells to the camera: He’s secretly in love with Regina. As time goes on, it’s obvious that Regina knows that she’s very attractive and that Dev has feelings for her. Regina uses her good looks to manipulate the men who are attracted to her. She’s also a habitual liar.

During another support group meeting, Regina goes on her usual diatribe against Russell. And once again, she says she’s going to kill him. But this time, she doesn’t end her rant by saying that Russell will die “in God’s time.” This omission freaks out Dev, who’s convinced that Regina is going to murder Russell soon, especially when Dev find out that Regina plans to leave town the next day.

Unfortunately, the movie wastes a lot of time to get to that point. There are some dumb shenanigans with Dev and Luca canceling and rescheduling callbacks for an important audition because they get caught up in trying to find out what Regina is going to do. During one of the many scenes that show Dev and Luca in support group meetings, Luca announces that if he doesn’t get the job in his next audition, he’s probably going to quit acting. No one in the support group really cares, and neither will viewers of this garbage movie.

At one point, Dev and Luca end up stalking Regina. She has told people that she works as a “life coach,” and she meets with clients in their homes. However, Dev and Luca find out that in her “life coach” session with a client, she’s really doing cocaine with a middle-aged man (played by Harry Bouvy), who doesn’t have a name in the movie. He lives in an Upper West Side building that has a doorman. It’s implied that Regina is a sex worker because she and her client are shown snorting cocaine in their underwear.

It all just leads to a silly scene where Dev and Luca sneak into to the apartment where Regina’s coke-snorting client lives, so that Dev and Luca can find Regina when she’s there. The two bumbling buddies tell the building doorman Robert (played by John Pope) that they are Gentile assistants hired by their Jewish client named Mr. Goldstein, who doesn’t want to do anything on the Sabbath, due to strict Orthodox Jewish beliefs. The doorman uses a key to let them into the apartment, where Regina has already left, unbeknownst to Dev and Luca.

The man’s wife, whose name is Mrs. Levy (played by Emily Fleischer), comes home, sees Dev and Luca with her partially undressed husband, who has cocaine on his nose. She incorrectly assumes that Dev and Luca are gigolos who were hired by her husband. “How long have you been fucking my husband?” she screeches as she maces Dev. Luca and Dev then make a hasty exit. That’s what’s supposed to be one of the movie’s funny slapstick scenes.

What’s so stupid about this scene is that no doorman who wants to keep his job would let strangers into an apartment unit without verifying first that it was authorized by someone who lives there. When the enraged wife finds out how these two bozos got into the apartment, she screams at the doorman: “Do I look fucking Jewish?” This anti-Semitic reaction from a woman named Mrs. Levy reveals that Dev and Luca also used the wrong name to get into the apartment, which makes the doorman and this movie look even more idiotic.

It gets worse. The movie throws in a subplot about Dev thinking that he’s being stalked by someone who was in a road rage incident with Dev. While Dev and Luca are on a subway, Dev happens to see this man nearby (but he doesn’t see them), so an anxious Dev tells Luca about this incident.

A flashback shows that when Dev was riding his bicycle on a residential street, a truck driver cut him off. The two men started cursing at each other. Dev then threw a plastic bottle of his urine into the man’s truck and sped off. Dev is convinced that the man is now trying to find Dev and get revenge.

Regina lives with her single (possibly widowed) mother, who’s identified in the movie as Mrs. Reyes (played by Sol Miranda), who has the misfortune of encountering Dev and Luca, as these two imbeciles become more obnoxious as the movie continues. Regina isn’t home when Dev and Luca show up at her house. And you know what that means. Expect to see at least one very predictable break-in scene by these two moronic clowns, who race around New York City trying to find Regina and Russell.

By the time Russell (played by Jared Abrahamson) shows up in the inevitable confrontation with Regina, some secrets are revealed that are very underwhelming and unimaginative. The entire nonsensical execution of this concept relies heavily on the flimsy assumption that viewers are supposed to believe that Dev never tried to find out what Russell looks like before Dev and Luca go on a frantic “race against time” to prevent Russell from being killed. That’s why any surprises that come in the movie look too phony and hard to believe.

In addition to Dev’s tiresome comments when he talks to the camera, “God’s Time” over-uses irritating effects, such as slowing down and distorting people’s voices during the action scenes. Because the movie takes too long to get to the main concept, “God’s Time” looks like it could have been a short film, but with a lot of filler to stretch out the movie to its 83-minute run time. The movie’s outtake scenes that are shown during the end credits just prove that these scenes shouldn’t have been in this already dreadful movie.

The grating performances by Groh and Costelloe could have been more engaging if they had a better screenplay and better character development. Forget about learning more about who Dev and Luca are as people. This movie has no significant backstories for them or any indications of who else in their personal lives get quality time with them outside of the support group.

It’s briefly mentioned Dev’s mother is an Indian immigrant, and he used to live in Kentucky. Luca quickly mentions his own father, who lives in New York state and is never seen in the movie. That’s it. Dev and Luca are written as utter fools who don’t have much about them to like, and they aren’t even entertaining in their buffoonery.

Sierra’s performance as Regina has flashes of very good comedic timing. However, the Regina character is written in a way that’s almost misogynistic. Dev and Luca go out of their way to be her “rescuers” (Luca’s motivations are later explained in the movie), but Regina is really nothing more than a selfish, arrogant and dishonest brat. Other than Regina’s good looks, the movie never explains why Dev is so “in love” with Regina, since she doesn’t seem to care about anyone but herself and maybe her dog.

Dev and Luca know about Regina’s continued drug use, which is never adequately addressed, other than Regina giving a relapse confession (with insincere-looking tears) during one of the many support group meetings that keep disrupting what should have been a better flow for this unevenly paced movie. The people in these support group meetings are written in generic and forgettable ways, with adequate acting from the people in these roles. “God’s Time” is more concerned about staging self-congratulatory scenes with bad gags instead of crafting memorable characters.

“God’s Time” looks like it’s trying to be a dark comedy, but there’s too much goofy nonsense for this movie to have any edge. If anyone wants to see a well-acted and edgy dark comedy set in New York City, with a “race against time” plot and a similar title, then a much better option is 2017’s “Good Time,” directed by Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie, and starring Robert Pattinson. “God’s Time” is an unfortunate misfire where the filmmakers forgot that in a movie whose concept is a chase comedy, audiences should care about at least one the main characters, the screenplay and direction should be solid, and it shouldn’t take too long to get to the chase scenes.

UPDATE: IFC Films will release “God’s Time” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on February 24, 2023.

Review: ‘The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw,’ starring Jessica Reynolds, Catherine Walker, Jared Abrahamson, Hannah Emily Anderson, Geraldine O’Rawe, Don McKellar and Sean McGinley

October 11, 2020

by Carla Hay

Jessica Reynolds in “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” (Photo courtesy of Epic Pictures)

“The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw”

Directed by Thomas Robert Lee

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1973 in an unnamed rural area in North America, the horror film “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” has an all-white cast representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A teenage girl has a mother who is suspected of being a witch and who goes to great lengths to hide her from the people in their town.

Culture Audience: “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” will appeal primarily to people who like atmospheric and suspenseful horror stories about the supernatural.

Catherine Walker in “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” (Photo courtesy of Epic Pictures)

“The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” (written and directed by Thomas Robert Lee) is an effectively bleak and brooding film that doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in the horror genre. However, the movie serves up the right amount of eerie chills that should please horror fans who like stories about strange happenings in a small village that might or not be affected by witchcraft. “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” is about a community in 1973 that is stuck in a past century, but many of the film’s social themes—such as society privilege, discrimination against people who are considered “different,” and the right for a woman to choose when to have a child—are all relevant to today.

The beginning of “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” has text on screen explaining the background of the village that’s at the center of this movie’s story: In 1873, a group of families separated from the Church of Ireland and settled in an isolated part of North America. (The movie was actually filmed in the Canadian city of Calgary.) The settlers kept their traditional ways and shunned new inventions and technology.

In 1956, a phenomenon, which was later called “the eclipse” by the villagers, resulted in a plague that spread throughout the community. This pestilence caused soil to be poisoned and livestock to get sick or die. However, one farm that’s far from the other residences seems to be immune from this plague: the farm owned by Agatha Earnshaw, who secretly gave birth to a daughter named Audrey during the eclipse.

Agatha’s place is the only farm in the area where the crops and livestock are thriving, while the rest of the villagers are suffering from food shortages because of their diseased crops and ailing farm animals. Because of Agatha’s uncommon fortune in not being affected by the plague and her abundance of food, people suspect that she is a witch. The village’s resentment against her also increases because she refuses to sell or trade any of her overflowing stock of food.

That’s what happens in the opening scene of the film, which takes place in 1973, when a man named Lochlan Bell (played by Tom Carey) makes an unannounced visit to Agatha’s farm and begs her to trade what he has for some food. He tells Agatha that he has a family to feed, but she stubbornly refuses to sell or trade any food to him. As a dejected Lochlan walks away, Audrey, who is 17, comes out of hiding and asks Agatha who that man was. Agatha replies that the man is a “villain” who “steals girls like you” and “that’s why they can never know about you.”

Agatha has gone to great lengths to hide that Audrey exists and won’t leave Audrey by herself. When Agatha travels into town by carriage, Audrey is hidden in the carriage’s wooden trunk. Audrey doesn’t know any other life, but as she gets older, she begins to find out that not everything her mother tells her is true.

One day, Agatha takes the carriage in town and happens to pass by a funeral for a boy named Liam Dwyer, who recently died under mysterious circumstances: He suddenly stopped breathing. Liam’s grieving parents are Colin Dwyer (played by Jared Abrahamson) and Bridget Dwyer (played by Hannah Emily Anderson), and the funeral service is being conducted by Colin’s compassionate pastor father Seamus Dwyer (played by Sean McGinley). Liam, who is never seen in the movie, was Colin and Bridget’s only child.

Colin sees Agatha passing by with her carriage full of food and becomes so offended that he lashes out at her. He thinks that Agatha is flaunting her abundance of food in front of the starving villagers, and he’s particularly insulted that she’s doing it at the funeral of his son. Agatha protests and says she didn’t know about the funeral, but Colin gets so angry that he hits Agatha and accuses her of being a witch. Seamus calms Colin down and makes a gentlemanly attempt to protect her. A visibly shaken Agatha leaves the scene.

Hidden inside the trunk, Audrey hears everything that happened. And based on the conversation she has with her mother later, it’s clear that although Audrey was aware that Agatha was not well-liked by the villagers, it has now reached a level of violence that alarms Audrey, who is starting to wonder if what the villagers are saying is true. Agatha tries to dismiss her fears and says that Audrey should trust her, not the villagers.

Lochlan, Colin, Bridget and Seamus all become entangled in Audrey and Agatha’s world in some way. There is also a married couple named Deirdre Buckley (played by Geraldine O’Rawe) and Bernard Buckley (played by Don McKellar) who are affected by many of the occurrences in this story. It’s enough to say that an act of revenge sets off a series of events revealing the true natures of Agatha and Audrey.

During all of the turmoil that happens, Bridget finds out that she’s pregnant, but she is convinced that something is wrong with the baby. She begins acting strangely, such as one night when Colin finds Bridget eating something bloody outside in their field. Bridget is so disturbed by how the pregnancy is making her act and feel that she tells Colin that she wants to terminate the pregnancy. Colin thinks she’s crazy for not wanting to have the child, and he orders her to have the baby, no matter how she feels.

“The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw,” which features terrific cinematography by Nick Thomas, has a sepia-toned atmosphere that eerily represents the otherworldly environment of a community living in a past century, conjuring up the look of a photograph from the 1870s. The brown-ish look of the film also representing the ongoing desolation of a community that has a mostly barren landscape but the villagers refuse to go anywhere else, even though their environment seems to be cursed. They are stuck in the past in more ways than one.

This oppressive atmosphere has a great deal to do with what ends up happening in the story, which writer/director Lee has crafted with a slow-burn pace that might be a little too slow for some viewers, but the tone is just right in portraying a community that is far removed from a fast-paced urban life. The movie gradually unpeels the layers of the mother/daughter relationship between Agatha and Audrey and reveals that there’s more to Audrey and Agatha’s story than what it initially appears to be in the beginning of the movie.

All of the actors do a fine job in their roles. But as the title character, Reynolds has the biggest responsibility in doing a convincing portrayal of Audrey’s complexities. It’s an impressive feature-film debut from Reynolds, who skillfully portrays the innocence of an overprotected child and the mystery of someone whom her mother wants to keep a secret. With its intriguing story, “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” has plenty of creepy and gruesome images, along with subtle commentary about feminine power and oppression, that make it an above-average horror film.

Epic Pictures released “The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw” in select U.S. cinemas, digital on VOD on October 2, 2020. The movie’s Blu-ray and DVD release date is on October 20, 2020.

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