Daniel (Wes Bentley) is a fledgling artist, struggling to sell his work and push his way into a successful art career. One of his paintings sells to a mysterious benefactor who asks him to deliver it personally. The client is Warner Dax (Frank Langella), a rich man who is housebound due to ill health. He asks Daniel not for a new painting, but to film things to his very specific instructions, such as a sunrise and children playing. Daniel struggles to choose between doing as the aggressive employer asks and being paid well for his efforts or turning down the money that he desperately needs to support his family, and it seems that the scenes he is being told to film, are not just random beautiful sights yearned for by a housebound old man.
The Time Being appears to have been a film that has been buried and forgotten about despite its acting credentials, starring as it does the always reliable Frank Langella and Wes Bentley who, even with his hair like a stuck on helmet, is quite underused in cinema, cropping up only briefly in films like Interstellar and The Hunger Games. This is a bit unfair as though the film is not without its flaws, there is enough in here to enjoy through a viewing. Perhaps it is due to the difficulty in marketing it. It is listed as a mystery but that aspect of it doesn’t get you much more than half an hour through the film, and what mystery there is isn’t exactly difficult to see through, you will probably guess it just from watching the trailer. Instead The Time Being is a family and human drama, attempting to explore the power of art and the effect that it can have on the artist and their family.
The strongest aspect of the film is certainly its cinematography. Luckily for a film about painting and art, the film is extremely lovely to look at, sometimes reaching moments of beauty and even poetry in its shots. The paintings in the film are also absolutely beautiful so kudos to whoever was hired to create them. The scenes of the paintings being created are some of the most pleasurable in the film, though I am interested in and enjoy watching the creation of paintings so this might be due to some small bias on my part. The film moves along at a mild pace, never particularly dragging, and it’s best just to settle down and let it gently wash over you; for you to enjoy like a nice piece of art.
Unfortunately, The Time Being is a little too gentle for its own good. Though you will happily be pulled along, it never quite gabs you by the collar and pulls you in to any strong drama. The family drama, both in Waner Dax’s life and in Daniel’s, both reflecting each other, is never really dramatic or original enough to create in you any strong reaction. The film reaches for themes and points about the nature of art and its importance to life and also the importance of family and balancing the thing you love with those you love, but it never quite hits on these ideas with enough force for them to resonate.
The Time Being is an entertaining if light watch. It looks great but never fully hits its dramatic and thematic aspirations. It is a shame that it will never really get a wide audience but those that do see it will find things to enjoy.