If there is one thing that I have learned to celebrate in this crazy film world of ours, it’s the release of a new film from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. The team behind recent favorites Spring and The Endless have returned to Fantastic Fest with their newest film, Synchronic.
Now, before I go any further, I will say that there is a particular joy to be found in going into a film from this duo completely blind. Watching their stories unfold is always a rewarding cinematic experience, but doing so with a completely open mind is something I will always encourage.
If you’re still here, Synchronic is the story of two paramedics encountering a wave of drug overdoses thanks to a new synthetic drug that recently hit the market. The drug is called Synchronic, and it leaves more than just dead bodies in its wake. Some users are found burned, some are discovered with deep knife wounds, and others are found in a strange trance. As they begin to learn more about the drug, they find that it has strange properties that allow people to briefly move through time. When Dennis’ (Jamie Dornan) daughter disappears completely after taking the drug, Steve (Anthony Mackie) begins experimenting with it in an attempt to bring her home.
Moorhead and Benson once again deliver a story that is compelling and endlessly fascinated with the world in which we live. It asks big questions and uses them as a jumping-off point to develop a narrative that is driven as much by wonder as it is by plot and character. The visual language of the film is incredibly beautiful, and (in typical Benson/Moorhead fashion) is used to communicate just how big and indefinable the universe is. Rather than showing the characters moving through time, we see time begin to shift around them. Their surroundings melt away and are replaced with something new that slowly fills in and becomes whole.
Synchronic also delivers a refreshing take on the time travel film in that the past isn’t idealized. By setting their story in New Orleans, they are easily able to illustrate just how ugly America’s history is, and don’t shy away from that fact. Rather than painting the past in a rosy hugh and longing for times gone by, they acknowledge the fact that humans have always walked a troubled road.
Synchronic was one of my most anticipated films of the festival, and it didn’t disappoint. Benson and Moorhead once again deliver an exquisitely beautiful film that delves deep into big ideas and uses those concepts to inform their story. Science fiction gives us the opportunity to explore our world and examine the things that bridge the divide between science and magic. These filmmakers understand that better than anyone, which is what makes films like Synchronic so beautiful.
Movie Score: 5/5
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