It takes a while to get into the rhythm of Joanna Arnow’s witty directorial debut The feeling that the time to do something has passed. The opening riffs on a familiar scene of lovers in post-coital repose before offering something so different it’s hard not to laugh. Ann (Arnow) lies on the sheets and stares at Allen (Scott Cohen), who is asleep under the covers. She moves closer until she’s on top of him. Then the humping begins. “I like that you don’t care if I get out,” she says, “because it’s like I don’t even exist.” To that her lover wearily replies, “Can’t you?”
Like most dialogues in The feeling that the time to do something has passed, this line is delivered without any effect or hint of emotion. Arnow’s directorial debut plays with the mundanity of existence by extracting the most humorous moments from our daily interactions. The film is a mosaic, a series of sketches depicting the life of Ann, a millennial woman recently inspired to revive her stagnant life.
The feeling that the time to do something has passed
It comes down to
A clever and quirky debut.
Filled with glimpses of Ann making steady, undramatic progress, the film explores the elliptical aspect of life. In their quest for change, people take small steps forward and backward; they correct mistakes to make them again later. If you’re looking for a typical movie about a millennial woman who dramatically turns her life upside down, this movie isn’t for you. Arnow is more interested in figuring out how the medium can reflect real life – for better or for worse.
Things happen in fits and starts for Ann. During an early scene, she realizes she barely knows Allen after their nearly seven years as “sex buddies,” a term she uses throughout the film. Allen still asks her what age they met, how old she is now and where she went to college. When she asks about his life, for example wondering if he is a Zionist, she is surprised when he answers in the affirmative. Later conversations with Allen and Ann’s sister (Alysia Reiner) provide more introspection for our main character. Time seems to have passed without her noticing, and she wonders with some glee if she should have moved on.
The feeling that the time to do something has passed is loosely divided into sections named after the people Ann dates. The blunt editing style (created by Arnow himself) makes each vignette feel like its own separate story: Ann and Allen in bed play out their dom subrelationship; Ann at the office, running through a dry business meeting; Ann with her parents (played by Arnow’s real parents, Barbara Weiserbs and David Arnow), having dinner. The effect can be jarring, but as the movie progresses you start to get a feel for the erratic cadence.
The comedic effects of Arnow’s style are most felt in Ann’s scenes with her various partners and during her day job. The specifics of what she does don’t matter as much as the nature of the work itself: how companies treat their employees like cogs in a machine. Ann attends meetings with perfunctory presentations. During one scene, she receives an award for completing a year on the job, even though she has been with the company for three years. Managers and colleagues move on, but the monotony of the office rarely deviates.
These depictions do not explicitly make the film a comedy at work, but they do match the down-to-earth style of similar scenes in films such as Julio Torres’ Problemist. At an office party, Ann shows a co-worker a gemstone lamp she found. “It casts a beautiful warm glow on everything,” she says, showing her colleague a photo of her holding the lamp. “Oh, you mean a salt lamp,” says the other woman. “It’s quite common. It’s a thing for lonely people.” The moment is defined by Ann’s reaction: pursed lips, squinted eyes, and an uneasy stiffness in her body.
Arnow’s succinct humor and physical comedy lend themselves to a surprising vulnerability over the course of the film. In this way, The feeling that the time to do something has passed feels like Martine Syms’ movie from 2022 African desperation. Ann’s relationship with Allen is flawed, but BDSM requires them to communicate openly. Years as a submissive in relationships have strengthened Ann, who shows greater agency with other intimate partners. Later relationships, such as those with Thomas (Peter Vack), Elliot (Parish Bradley), and Chris (Babak Tafti), give us a subtle sense of how Ann has changed.
Arnow’s movie won’t be for everyone – some of the jokes have a specific character and an insider energy that don’t always land – but there’s enough to pique curiosity about what Arnow is trying to do. Even the title, with its floaty feel and silent ellipses, makes you think.