TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! God’s Waiting Room, written and directed by Tyler Riggs, is a steamy central-Florida-based film where drama hinges upon an insatiable desire for a change of any kind. Bored and coming of age, Rosie (Nisalda Gonzalez) is a budding musician, singer, and songwriter who meets Jules (Matthew Leone), a drug dealer with charm and street smarts, who will face his demise from Brandon (Tyler Riggs), a man recently released from prison after ten years. The subtle connection between these three characters is Rosie’s loving but tough father, Nino (Ray Benitez).
Watching each of these characters evolve on the screen, especially in this particular area and culture presents a unique perspective to the theme and plot. The film is full of subtle and beautiful cutaways to back its premise with shots of raindrops in a puddle, a unique angle in an amphitheater, smoke from dirt bike riders, or the green lushness of a sketchy hideaway. At first, the innocence of Rosie and bad-boy Jules, who is an attention seeker, is a cliché until her talent and smarts appear. It does seem that everyone is smoking blunts non-stop until it emerges that Jules is a dealer.
As a frayed plot and disjointed backstories evolve throughout God’s Waiting Room, they do not fully encompass Brandon. His character does present interesting perspectives on re-entering society and the traps that exist at every turn, especially when employed as a pool boy, which includes servicing a pool of a very sexy exhibitionist. But he feels sidelined a bit.
“…a budding musician…meets…a drug dealer with charm and street smarts…”
Rosie and Jules have simple romantic outings at the beach, a late-night pool rendezvous, and rides at an amusement park—yet there’s an edge to all of it. All the while, her bricklayer father, representing loyalty and experience, is growing tired of it all. As Jules is smitten, he’s also a dealer and thinks his mission from God is not being taken seriously by his minion pushers. It’s here where we begin to piece together a more prominent theme of “in God’s presence.” Jules presents a “blood of Christ” speech to his dealers, at which time you could discern he might be sacrificed.
Although it’s an interesting metaphor where there are cutaways to gigantic clouds symbolizing the heavens, comments of being “heavenly,” and a type of baptism with Jules falling into water. While gorgeously filmed, it’s still odd not knowing Brandon’s purpose or never being allowed to get a real sense of him. Is he a murderer with an alternate personality? Are his in-prison clips real? His parole meetings seem to be, but what is this mysterious edging he’s pushing? Is he taking, thus explaining his bizarre behavior?
There’s some context missing when we arrive at the final scene to God’s Waiting Room; however, the effort is there to connect a type of faith to these character’s existences. And there’s something about a Florida film, especially a story with characters on the fringe or living in poverty, that is a character in itself that cannot be recreated elsewhere. While a bit disjointed, the film does offer hidden beauty in a world of seemingly discontent and boredom.
God’s Waiting Room screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…the film does offer hidden beauty in a world of seemingly discontent and boredom."