In Danny Lacey’s short film That Day, five friends reconnect twenty years later in an attempt to make sense of something mysterious they witnessed as children. Under the belief that now journalist Scott (George Banks) solved the mystery, the reluctant reunion occurs, though the truth remains outside all their grasps. Or so it would seem.
First, the good. Visually, the short film looks wonderful. The composition fills the frame in an interesting way, and overall the piece comes together. If you are to criticize the film, you’ll likely not go near the visuals.
The narrative, however… this is a case of a film ending right when it feels like the true story is beginning. For the most part, it’s a straightforward tale as the adults think back on the event in their childhood, and try to make sense of it, accompanied by flashback footage of them as children. But because we don’t see what it is they’re coming to grips with until the very end, as they don’t remember it entirely either, we’re not along for the mystery so much as watching them frustrate each other. So it’s hard to engage with the mystery enough for that to be the main power of the piece.
Likewise, we’re given five characters, but only a few are given any memorable characteristics or moments. For the most part, we don’t know these people, and we don’t really get to know them beyond their frustration, confusion and misplaced aggression for one another. I understand that such a scenario will always be difficult in such a short film, but I’d then ask why there had to be so many characters in the first place? Maybe three could’ve allowed for more character development, given us more to embrace while we waited for the mystery to assert itself.
So we have an event that’s mysterious and frustrating to our group of characters, but we haven’t seen the event ourselves and we’re not really connecting with the characters either. In other words, to repeat my earlier thought, the film seems to end right when it feels like we’re finally getting started with it. Maybe if that event was sprinkled throughout their recollections in fractured bits, maybe a more frantic flashback edit to give some action to the mystery, the audience could be puzzled and unsettled along the way too.
As it stands now, That Day is a very straightforward film that succeeds in making the audience feel as frustrated as the characters on the screen. If that was the intention, then it achieves its goal. Unfortunately, by the time it captured my interest in the least, it was over.
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