I get how the life and legend of David Bowie could inspire a filmmaker to find a cinematic crystal ball and peer into our future 20 years hence. When I saw the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1976, in which he starred in a role he was born to play – a sexy space alien — it inspired me to add three new piercings to my ears, a job I did by myself. Each time I place an earring in one of those holes, I think of his magical music and mystical persona. I was among those crushed to hear Bowie had died in 2016 at age 69 since he really did seem immortal.
So here comes this funky little time-and-space odyssey titled after Bowie’s first-ever instrumental song from his late ‘70s album Low — Speed of Life, written and directed by Liz Manashil. The movie opens with a young girl attempting to re-create her pop idol’s Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt on her face in 1992. We then happen upon a couple in 2016, June (Allison Tolman) and Edward (Ray Santiago), whose temperaments seem to be a poor match. She is in despair to learn that Bowie has died while he tries to make a joke out of it. As they argue, Edward suddenly disappears into what seems to be a tear in the universe.
We then zoom 24 years into the future to the year 2040. June (now played by the estimable Ann Dowd) still lives in the same house but everything about the world has changed. Monitors are everywhere in her house telling her when and what to do at every turn. Liquids have replaced food. And an ear bud is all you need to call someone. We learn she is on the cusp of turning 60 – the age that requires you to go into “government housing.” She has an older friend next door (Jeff Perry) who keeps her company along with his 20-ish daughter.
Then, Edward suddenly comes back into June’s life through the same wormhole fell into before. He hasn’t changed much from 2016. But time has mellowed his companion, and their reunion is sweet but brief. Manashil has made the rare futuristic fantasy that is driven by emotion rather than special effects – one that examines an intriguing what-if as well as paying homage to a great artist.