From directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead comes “Synchronic,” a film timeless in its investigation of universal vastness and human connection, emphasizing the importance of the here and now while making all of its seconds count.
“Synchronic” follows two New Orleans paramedics, Dennis Danelly (Jamie Dornan) and Steve Danube (Anthony Mackie), as they investigate a gruesome series of accidents involving a bizarre new drug described as “fake ayahuasca.” This drug, after which the movie takes its name, has the ability to transport users back in time.
The nature of this psychedelic remains highly speculative until Dennis’ oldest daughter, Brianna (Ally Ioannides), disappears, leading Steve on a quest that challenges not only his perception of reality, but the flow of time itself.
Steve, a ladies’ man and armchair physicist, strives for emotional intimacy yet often falls short with his vices of substance abuse and one-night stands. However, his largely heedless outlook on life shifts when he’s diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and given an estimated six weeks to live.
His life, imbued with newfound urgency, is complicated further when his partner Dennis’ daughter disappears after taking a tablet of Synchronic, leaving her trapped in the past. With Dennis’ homelife deteriorating in the wake of his daughter’s disappearance, Steve swiftly buys up all the Synchronic in the area. With his supply, Steve aims to rescue Brianna by taking the Synchronic himself, traveling to the past in order to secure the future.
“Synchronic” warrants the viewer’s full attention, as the story incorporates several time jumps in its exploration of nonlinear perception. These abrupt cuts offer little context, catapulting the viewer into another part in the film’s chronology. Yet, by use of costume changes and recognizable plot points, these time jumps captivate instead of complicate. Time shifting could very easily fall into a trap of overly conceptual fluff. However, this shifting storyline stays committed to its mechanics, never sacrificing its accessibility in its ambitious execution.
The conceptual premise of the story is engaging but not overbearing, allowing plenty of light to shine on the characters. Thoughtful details, such as hearts carved into trees and framed pictures on mantles, imbue “Synchronic” with a sense of humanity. This film investigates time through what people leave behind versus what they carry forward.
In one particularly poignant scene, Steve and Dennis find resolution, wherein addressing the night sky, Steve declares, “The present is a miracle.” The present is at once certain and unguaranteed, eternal and fleeting, and “Synchronic” realizes this fragile balance, shouldering that immensity with authenticity.
In a film full of mesmerizing time jumps and captivating camerawork, the grounding dialogue remains a standout feature. The small cast allows for the viewer to connect with the characters and all of their triumphs and shortcomings. Humorous quips, fiery confrontations and profound monologues make time travel seem plausible, even relatable, as even with otherworldly abilities the past is still difficult to face. Yet even with its loose embrace of time, “Synchronic” realizes that in the end, the here and now is all that matters.
“Synchronic,” rated R, will play in select theaters, including the Music Box Theatre, Oct. 23.