The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed Is a Captivating Dive into NYC Doldrums

Movies Reviews Joanna Arnow
The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed Is a Captivating Dive into NYC Doldrums

The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed begins with writer/director Joanna Arnow’s naked body curled up next to her character Ann’s dozing dom, Allen (Scott Cohen). She humps him slowly and awkwardly over the duvet, and quietly encourages his lack of interest in her own sexual gratification. It’s true that their sub-dom dynamic is largely focused on Allen’s pleasure, while Ann is merely his willing servant. It’s a dynamic that they’ve shared together since Ann was in her mid-twenties, with Allen at least 20 years her senior. But later in the film, Ann reveals that she can’t actually achieve climax from physical touch, anyway. In fact, she spends most of the film outwardly bored by sex, although we never see her engaged in coital affairs of the penis-to-vagina variety. Ann gives blowjobs, she gets spanked, she dresses up as a “fuck pig,” she runs across a room between a wall and sucking Allen’s nipple. Throughout the film, Ann hops between a small handful of BDSM relationships—the only kinds of relationships she’s ever been a part of—until she meets the soft-natured Chris (Babak Tafti). It’s here that Ann decides she’s done with the sub-dom life and is finally willing to try “real” dating.

For as chaotic as this arc sounds, The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed is an incredibly still film. There is hardly any non-diegetic music, and characters do not say very much. But there is a lack of deliberation in their words compared to, say, the heightened directness of a Wes Anderson screenplay. The film is full of negative space, both in the compositions and in the dialogue. Barton Cortright’s static camera frames its subjects from a cold distance with sporadic emphasis on walls which conjoin at their corner, and it makes otherwise intimate surroundings like Ann’s apartment feel foreboding and vulnerable. It mirrors the type of vulnerability Ann puts herself through in the film, an outwardly unassuming young woman of very few words and physical expressions, who nevertheless involves herself in what some might consider “outlandish” sexual exploits. 

Ann’s days are much less interesting, and The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed is mostly composed of vignettes of her life. Ann works for a nameless company in a dull office position, enduring a merger that has caused her headaches, late nights and circular phone calls with her superior. She visits her mother and father regularly, where her acerbic personality gets her into disagreements. Her sister stays with her, she waits for the F train, she folds her laundry, she goes to yoga, she calls her mom, she makes dinner from a bag of microwavable mush (the sound design is often impeccable). If one were so bold, they might generously compare it to Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.

Similarly, these ordinary scenarios are completely hypnotic to watch and to hear, so much so that you can forgive the occasional cringey line like “Thank you for forgiving me for mansplaining about L.A.” Despite Ann being something of a wallflower, her low voice and deadpan delivery are utterly alive, and there is also life in New York, even when the city is not jumping from the screen like it usually does in movies. The molasses feel of the film is such a welcome contrast to the normal stereotype of New York City as fast-paced, on-the-go and constantly interesting. There’s a particularly resonant scene where Ann arrives at the Smith and 9th Street station in Brooklyn to find that the F train won’t be arriving for another 20 minutes. These are the average, routine moments less regularly put in art about city life, and it’s as exhilaratingly unremarkable as seeing a woman’s normal body—breasts, ass, bush—flaunted freely and unflatteringly. Arnow takes the mundanity at the heart of the idealized, youthful NYC lifestyle and turns it into a mesmerizing exploration of self and sexuality and how it can all be very, very boring and unsexy.

Arnow also makes these boring parts of life seem so daunting. The job that won’t get better, the sex that won’t get better, the family that won’t get better; the love that might get better but could still fall apart at any moment. That’s how it constantly feels between Ann and Chris once they embark upon their tender courtship, like a thin string that might fray. It’s agonizing. Tafti convincingly plays Chris as a kind, thoughtful guy with genuine affection for Ann, but whose sweet disposition could easily be hiding something more unforgiving. What is it they say about “nice guys?” Maybe that’s why Ann finds herself going back to Allen’s emotionally distant domination at one point. Dating for love and companionship is scary.

Chris unearthing his dark side never actually happens, but scenes like the one where Ann reveals her passion for Broadway musicals, to Chris’s chagrin, and then energetically performs a number from Les Mis for him in bed are nerve-wracking. It’s the most emotive and enthusiastic Ann has been during the entire film, but it gives way to the anxiety that Chris might have finally seen too much of her. A seemingly unfinished blowjob afterwards makes this fear even more real, but nevertheless Chris and Ann continue to see one another gladly. A welcome exhale. Arnow masterfully plays out that nagging, stupid fear of showing too much of yourself to someone. As if being a person isn’t already hard enough. The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Past beautifully observes how the ridiculous mundanities of being alive are some of the most difficult.

Director: Joanna Arnow
Writer: Joanna Arnow
Starring: Scott Cohen, Babak Tafti, Joanna Arnow, Michael Cyril Creighton, Alysia Reiner
Release Date: April 26, 2024

Brianna Zigler is an entertainment writer based in middle-of-nowhere Massachusetts. Her work has appeared at Little White Lies, Film School Rejects, Thrillist, Bright Wall/Dark Room and more, and she writes a bi-monthly newsletter called That’s Weird. You can follow her on Twitter, where she likes to engage in stimulating discussions on films like Movie 43, Clifford, and Watchmen.

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