While Harmony Korine’s Gummo took place in possibly the worst part of Ohio and a horrific section of the director’s brain, the recent Dayveon – set in Arkansas – feels like Unincorporated Anytown, USA. The environment is all too familiar for someone who has lived in homes and apartments at various low to lower mid income levels. There are no strips of bacon stuck to bathroom tile mind you, but rather clean laundry stacked on living room furniture and stove tops occupied with used pans. There are no cat meat butchers, but rather hot food discount convenience stores in areas absent of grocery. Korine went for a fantastical extremity, while Dayveon’s director Amman Abbasi goes for a more grounded approach, caring for a beautiful and tense realism.
Gummo exists on the far end of this genre spectrum, while Dayveon is somewhere in the middle – uncontroversial if contemplative, standard if idealistic. It’s a movie we’ve seen over and over again on screen, confronting sparingly and only when our eyes are forced to meet. It’s a story of past trauma reliving itself potentially, out of misplaced guilt and need for closure. At roughly 70 or so minutes, we are given mostly a mere glimpse into this world, not unlike having to drive through a neighborhood of tall grass and broken cars – it’s heartbreaking, but you need to concentrate on the road, right?
“…director Amman Abbasi goes for a more grounded approach, caring for a beautiful and tense realism.”
Occasionally startling but usually just middling, Dayveon follows the day to day life of the young Day Day who, living with his sister and her boyfriend, deals with the aftermath of his older brother being murdered and his family breaking up. His pain, and that of the community, is evident in everyone’s brutish attitude towards one another. When talking on the phone, it’s natural for Day Day to snap at questions or concerns. When hanging around, too. When playing games, or eating food. Every moment is filled with the possibility of someone lashing out from exhaustion and irritation. In one scene, when some friends are smoking pot, one guy – high as a kite – remarks on how stressful it is to deal with being an adult. The finances and the responsibility. No wonder the smells of rock concert vape from watching. How else does one “deal?”
“…uncontroversial if contemplative, standard if idealistic.”
Day Day looks up to the very group of people that may or may not have had a hand in the death of his brother, an even helps out on a few “jobs” of theirs. He goes through the motions, confused and conflicted but also willing to accept his self assigned fate as one of a gang. There’s an interesting existential drama in Dayveon that is never really explored, and only handled with lip service and passing suggestiveness. For a movie that starts with rich camera angles and vivid surroundings, it sure becomes flat very quickly, and stays that way.
A hive of bees by the trash can pickup space in front of Day Day’s home is focused on frequently. This flabbergasted me at first, and even now I’m still hard to understand its meaning. Fear of joining the hive? Maybe the answer is the film itself. A story that doesn’t quite live up to its spirit filled images and lofty vision, but will sting no matter what? Lay off the honey, this writer says to himself.
Dayveon (2017) Directed by Amman Abbasi / Written by Steven Reneau and Amman Abbasi / Starring Lachion Buckingham, Devin Blackmon, Shavidee Trotter
2.5 out of 5