Synchronic – movie review

Time and tide wait for no man, they say. In the sci-fi drama Synchronic, a chemist invents a time travel drug that sends people back. It has greatest impact on those with young minds. They’re the most inclined to be high … and what a trip it sends them on.

Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) are long-time friends and New Orleans paramedics. They’re constantly being called out to overdoses. Dennis is unhappily married. He and his wife Tara (Katie Aselton) have an 18-year-old daughter, Brianna (Ally Ioannides). Brianna is about to go off to college, although she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. She’s become virtually uncommunicative with her parents.

Steve is used to playing the field and drinking heavily. He’s also been popping pills for a pounding head. Tests reveal he has a deadly, fast-growing brain cancer that has kept his pineal gland – which produces hormones, including melatonin – from calcifying. He and Dennis are called out to yet another overdose case only to find that Brianna was involved … and now she’s disappeared. Steve resolves to buy up all of an insidious new designer drug called Synchronic, lest it get into any more wrong hands. The drug works by affecting the uncalcified pineal glands in children and teens. It’s causing many of the problems and seems to have permeated the market.

Steve has a chance encounter with the chemist who manufactured the pills, and suddenly a whole new world opens up for him. Through trial and error with Synchronic, he believes he can find Brianna.

Synchronic, the movie, is the brainchild of writer Justin Benson, who also co-directs with his best friend Aaron Moorhead. I preferred the first half to the second, which became far more predictable. For a long time I didn’t know where the film was heading and I was keen to find out, but once Steve crossed over I am afraid most – if not all – the mystery was gone. Still, the set up was impressively left of centre. It involved a number of almost psychedelic trips.

Mackie and Dornan make the most of their respective roles, with both their characters having skeletons in the closet. Mackie plays earnest and Dornan lost. Steve and Dennis enjoy an, at times, fraught relationship.

The script plays on the tenuous nature of life and the need for escapism. It also stares down the vicissitudes that can change everything in a heartbeat. The creepy soundscape by Jimmy LaValle adds to the air of the unknown. Synchronic is a small audience film that has something going for it, but is no master work.

Alex First

Other reviews you might enjoy: