Katie Hogan looks at Tyler Riggs’ feature film, God’s Waiting Room
The feeling of being stuck in a ‘nowhere’ town and meant for better things in another place – be it school, city or another job – is routinely explored in American independent film. You know the kind, they’re often filled with scenes of wistful teenagers and young adults trying to find their place in the world, usually over a hot summer. Young love, first love, last and endless loves are all brought into play, alongside the hope that maybe things can change. Then, adjacent to this type of story are ones of hopelessness and redemption, following someone returning to their home town because they have no other choice. Elements of both of these recognisable stories are sliced together into God’s Waiting Room. The title describes so well the atmosphere throughout this film, making you wonder if the wait will ever be over for these characters or if they will be stuck in purgatory forever.
Budding singer-songwriter Rosie drifts from party to party with her friends, waiting for college to start. She meets a small-time drug dealer named Jules, and the two start to fall for each other, but her father disapproves of the relationship. Elsewhere in town, Brandon has just been released from prison and struggles to find his place in society.
The script feels a little rough around the edges, with dialogue at times feeling simplistic, rushed and plot-heavy. Plus, the film doesn’t do much to explain how the central characters are connected, with their relationships feeling strained and sudden. However, thankfully as the film progresses, the odd but surprising innovative direction allows the script to breathe, and the big ideas have space to sink in. Although it does stray into darker territory, the film maintains an understated style, creating an agreeable, breezy and effortless calm right until the credits roll. The film’s pacing and atmosphere are steadfast, and the aesthetic direction of the cinematography lends the film consistency where the script failed to. However, the sorrowful nature of the film seems artificial throughout and unfortunately overlooks and fails to develop substantial motivations for Rosie, Jules and Brandon. More explanation would have made the story feel more rounded.
Each of the film’s central characters feels adrift and directionless, so it’s disappointing that the film should take such a vague and open-ended stance. The early scenes between Rosie and Jules feel as if they are from an entirely different story. The film often switches focus, setting up a possible young love story before morphing into a tale about people wanting to find their own purpose in life as they introspectively ponder if their actions have any real meaning. This could be a bleak watch for some, but perhaps others will find hope in it. If you can find the moments of bliss, you can find a way to enjoy the story.
God’s Waiting Room screened as part of Tribeca Festival 2021