Synchronic was originally written as a capsule for a piece on the 2019 London Film Festival’s Cult strand for Sight & Sound, but for reasons beyond my control, did not make it into the final cut. So here it is.
Set in New Orleans, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead‘s latest continues exploring the idea of eternity that has been the focal point of all their features, whether the looping time-traps of their debut Resolution (2012) and its sort-of sequel The Endless (2017), or the immortal woman at the centre of Spring (2014). This time, the word ‘allways’ [sic] appears, prominently carved into a rock in what now is a picnic area on the city’s shoreline, but once was the savage arena for Ice Age survivalism, colonial invasion, slavery or Civil War. The film is an experiment in what Bakhtin termed the chronotope: for here, as in David Lowery’s A Ghost Story (2017), space is fixed while time proves slippery.
On a paradoxical search for the missing daughter (Katie Aselton) of his colleague (Jamie Dornan), paramedic Steve (Anthony Mackie) discovers that ‘Synchronic’, a new synthetic drug which has been leading his patients to bizarre injuries or deaths, allows users to travel back in time without ever leaving their location. Rooted in well-drawn characters (and uprooted by Moorhead’s disorienting cinematography), this mannered sci-fi slyly challenges the politics of conservative nostalgia, as our African-American hero learns that, compared to his country’s long history of violent hostility and division, there really is no better time (yet) than the familiar present.
© Anton Bitel