The Way We Speak

The Way We Speak, 2024, 1 ¾ stars

Discourse, off course

Patrick Fabian and Diana Coconubo star in The Way We Speak. (The image is courtesy of Enzian / Florida Film Festival.)

Exclusive to MeierMovies, April 15, 2024

Simon Harrington is an up-and-coming writer, but that’s no compliment considering he’s over 50. The description is especially emasculating considering his wife, Claire, is already famous. But she’s also dying, which makes Simon even more eager to prove his worth to her, and to himself.

A prominent futurist and atheist, Simon is invited to debate his friend George at a prominent conference. This is the break he has been waiting for, but his plans are dashed when tragedy befalls George and the conference selects a different opponent, renowned Christian author Sarah Clawson, to take the side of God. But little goes according to plan, not so much because of Simon’s cerebral shortcomings but because of his hubris, anxiety, anger and marital difficulties.

The debut feature of writer-director Ian Ebright begins with a quote from Gore Vidal: “Envy is the central fact of American life.” That successfully encapsulates Simon’s insecurities, but like so much in The Way We Speak, the quote teases an intriguing intellectualism that never quite materializes, shrouded by debates that go nowhere and personal situations that rarely rise above their contrivances.

The leads – Patrick Fabian (Better Call Saul) as Simon, Diana Coconubo (Incarcerated) as Claire, Kailey Rhodes (Half Sisters) as Sarah and Ayanna Berkshire (Twilight) as the head of the company holding the conference – are occasionally effective but can’t overcome the stiff, heavy-handed direction and unexciting script. What could have been a fascinating examination of one man’s pomposity, a discourse on religion and a socio-political dialogue – My Dinner with Andre meets Inherit the Wind – instead gets mired in tedium. Even more surprisingly, the film has little to say about God. And though there is no winner or loser in the debate, I would have voted for Sarah Clawson – and this coming from an agnostic atheist.

Ebright has big ideas and will have better films: ones that more successfully combine erudition with entertainment.

© 2024 MeierMovies, LLC

This review is part of my coverage of the 2024 Florida Film Festival. The film had its world premiere on April 13 and will screen again at Enzian Theater, with cast and crew in attendance, on April 18. To buy tickets, go to For more information about the event and an index of reviews of other festival films, go here. For more information on this movie, visit IMDB.