Photo Credit - Netflix
In the vast vortex of TV series and movies of all genres that is Netflix, it can be challenging at times to glean out a gem. It never ceases to amaze me that despite all the content out there, how often there can be seemingly nothing to watch. If you’re anything like I am there have been plenty of nights of scrolling through rows and rows of options only to repeat the mantra, “How is it possible I can’t find anything?!” I was prepared for more of the same recently, but the algorithm gods were in my favor and a new release from Italy was discovered. Still Time (Era Ora) by Writer/Director Alessandro Aronadio is a time-jumping (not traveling) dramedy that gets poignant messaging across while deftly interjecting humor throughout. The movie starts at a New Year’s Eve party with the protagonist, Dante (Edoardo Leo) encountering what will be the new love of his life, Alice (Barbara Ronchi), under unusual and funny circumstances.
Not long after, Alice has clearly moved in with Dante and it is his birthday. As such, Alice begins what will be an annual ritual of a pancake birthday breakfast, and then she asks him to commit to returning home at a normal time. Dante ridiculously rushes through his breakfast, claiming to have a work deadline, but promises an early return. Unbeknownst to him, Alice has a surprise party lying in wait. Unbeknownst to her, Dante will return much later than sooner after a rigorous work schedule at the office and running a few errands. This sequence not only gives insight into their very different personalities- she is an adorable, fun-loving creative woman, and he is a workaholic with no sense of work/life balance or prioritizing the things that should matter most- but also into their new love and relationship. The viewers are hooked on them as individuals and as a couple.This also sets up the reoccurring theme of time loops.
Shortly before a scene’s conclusion, Dante and the audience think a normal few hours has passed, like sleeping overnight and waking up the next morning, but in fact another year or two has gone by. It is his birthday as demarkation of time. Instead of Dante thinking he will be waking up to the day after his surprise party, he is instead faced with a very pregnant Alice. The next scene/day their baby is a year older and it's another birthday. Making things more frustrating to him, is he is the only one seemingly experiencing this. These type of jumps occur many times signifying Dante’s loss of time and lack of participation in his life and the lives of those he loves most, including a health crisis for one of his best friends, changes in his aging father. One of the most moving, yet funny examples of this is the ongoing growth of his daughter, whose first few years he has obviously participated little in. This is evidenced by the ongoing joke of him forgetting her unusual name (in honor of a Lord of the Rings movie character) and not understanding why Alice selected it.
Despite the movie’s familiar premise of time loops and the reflection of life on what matters most, it is done so in a truly unique way that keeps the audience surprised, laughing and wholly engaged. And kudos to director Aronadio for usurping expectations at the end. Although Dante is a workaholic and a clearly flawed character, he is also authentically charming and undeniably delightful. He is not set up as a cliched arrogant suit just trying to climb the corporate ladder. He seems to genuinely think this is what he has to do to maintain. That said, he is missing out, literally, on life and learns a hefty lesson. The fact that it takes maybe a few too many time jumps is unfortunate for Dante, and the only minor flaw of the film. It came very close to being too repetitious and overselling the life lesson. Fortunately, with clever writing and execution, along with delightful performances by Leo and Ronchi as well as the small supporting cast, Still Time delivers as being one of the best movies you didn’t know you wanted to see and an expected best of the year.
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The third time is the charm applies to my latest revision of my Best Of/Fav List of 2022 films. As I write this, it's just a few hours away from the Oscar Awards ceremony. While this is not reflective of what I think will necessarily win, I do believe my #1 and #2 selections are close contenders for the big prize, with Everything Everywhere All at Once coming out on top for probably all the "top categories," including Best Picture.
Not surprising, there are several on my list that are not in the running, and even some that most people haven't seen and/or haven't had opportunity to see yet. That includes The Grab, a riveting and important documentary that has yet to get a distributor and is only on the film festival circuit. I viewed it, like Decision to Leave, Argentina 1985 and Boy From Heaven, at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Despite their lack of awards contention or even distribution, I think they are worthy of my list and stand as the best I had the opportunity to see in 2022. I also strongly urge you to seek these films out, along with Triangle of Sadness (one of the best dark comedies ever!), which is now available on one or two streaming platforms, at first opportunity.
In the meantime, enjoy what should be a relatively uneventful Oscars show, especially compared to last year's program, and with what I predict will be few surprises.