Speed of Life

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Speed of Life Movie Poster Image
Well-acted, original sci-fi indie is short and sweet.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 76 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Positive messages about how artists can change lives, how love is enduring, and how eventually everyone needs to face their future. The importance of intergenerational friendship and community connections is also promoted. Themes include compassion, empathy, and perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

June is devoted to Edward and the possibility of his return. She's also loving toward Sam and Laura. Sam is patient and kind; he loves June and is willing to wait for her to make up her mind about what (and who) she wants. Edward cares about June, no matter how different she suddenly seems. Laura is thoughtful and kind to her neighbor, her father, and June.


A couple has a fight during which one of them disappears into a rift in the universe. In the near future, people aged 60 and over are forced to live in (unseen) planned -- and isolated -- communities. A bird is injured.


A couple that lives together embraces and shares a couple of quick kisses. During a fight, one of them makes repetitive suggestive comments about how he and his partner are "compatible." A couple holds each other. Kissing and two fade-to-black love scenes between consenting adults.


Infrequent language: "Eat my f--king shorts," "shut your mouth," "screw yourselves," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink a beer, wine, and liquor in a few scenes (alone or with company during a meal). A man takes a pill before sex (it's suggested it's male birth control).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Speed of Life is a quirky sci-fi dramedy about a David Bowie fan whose boyfriend disappears on the day Bowie dies in 2016, an act she attributes to a rip in the fabric of the universe. The action picks up 24 years later in 2040, with the main character still believing that her old boyfriend will come back. Expect to see kissing and a couple of fade-to-black love scenes. Characters drink (mostly socially) and use occasional strong language (including "f--k"). Amid themes of compassion, empathy, and perseverance, the movie tackles serious ideas about institutional treatment of the elderly and how virtual assistants could turn into Big Brother-ish monitoring devices.

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What's the story?

SPEED OF LIFE opens with a wordless sequence set in 1992 in which a young girl puts on David Bowie makeup. Twenty-four years later, that girl is 30-something June (Allison Tolman), who arrives home with her live-in boyfriend, Edward (Ray Santiago), and proceeds to pick a fight after she discovers that Bowie has died. During their fight, Edward unexpected walks into what can only be described as a rift in time and space and instantly disappears. The movie then skips ahead to 2040, when June (now played by Ann Dowd) is preparing for her 60th birthday, on which she's supposed to move into a government-controlled district for seniors (it's never seen but sounds more like a prison than a retirement village). June and her friend/sort-of partner, Sam (Jeff Perry), are planning to escape to avoid her forced move, but she's hesitant to leave because she believes that long-missing Edward could still return at any moment. Meanwhile, Sam's daughter, Laura (Vella Lovell), meet-cutes her neighbor over a bird caught between their two apartments.

Is it any good?

Writer-director Liz Manashil's sci-fi dramedy is an exploration of love, patience, and fandom, as well as a much-needed starring role for the fabulous Dowd. Speed of Life's "future" isn't much different than our current present except for the fact that Alexa and Siri-like virtual monitors really do monitor and detect everything people say, and the elderly are kept away from society in restrictive care facilities that control retirees' lives. Dowd is an ideally cast counterpoint to Tolman, because they're both fine actresses with sharp comedic chops. Dowd plays June as a character who's brave enough to want to escape "the program" for elderly folks while also loving enough to embrace the possibility of Edward's return. And Perry is wonderful as Sam, who has every reason to feel threatened by Edward but continues to hope that he and June have the real thing.

Don't expect a lot of worldbuilding or exposition about what happened between 2016 and 2040 that led to the U.S. government controlling the lives of the over-60 set -- or to see much of the external world. Other than a few walks around the neighborhood, the action takes place inside June's, Sam's, and Laura's homes. Manashil isn't interested in a complicated or thoroughly researched futuristic world; it's just a generation in the future, when even those pesky "Millennials" are considered old. What Manashil does capture is the feeling of loss, of time there and then gone in an instant, of love and aging. The plot is thin and the runtime short, but this movie is more thought-provoking than expected.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of time travel-themed stories. How does the time travel work in Speed of Life? Is it believable? Would you be as welcoming of the situation?

  • What's the influence of David Bowie and his music on the characters? Why do you think June believes Bowie's death is responsbile for Edward's disappearance?

  • How does the future manifest itself in the movie? How do near-future settings in movies/TV shows tend to differ from distant future ones? What are your favorite movies set in the near future?

  • What do you think of the various romantic relationships in the movie? Which "ship" were you rooting for, and why?

  • Do you think virtual assistants/AI could end up like the ones in this movie? Why is it important to be concsious of your privacy when tech is involved?

Movie details

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