I could be a smartass and crack that this dreamy and poetic film by Christopher Munch was neither brisk nor in color, but I won’t. It wasn’t exactly leaping, either, although the sun was attempting to peek through the clouds and even occasionally succeeding.
James Lee is a young Post-War Chinese-American who desperately loves trains. On vacation with his family, he learns about the Yosemite Valley Railroad, a nearly insolvent line built by his forefathers and now being sold at salvage prices. James scrapes up an investor and buys the line, determined to return it to its lost glory, despite the fact that he has exactly zero years experience in the railroad business.
Such is the surface story, at least; the backdrop for the film’s look at racism towards Asian-Americans, James’ romance with an attractive Native American National Parks worker, his homosexual stirrings towards his best friend, (played by REM’s Michæl Stipe) and a squeamish incestuous subtext between James and his sister. Not exactly beer and a pizza kind of stuff.
This was a pretty film to watch, what with its beautiful black and white Ansel Adams-ish Yosemite landscapes and all. Unfortunately, most of those pretty pictures were, what we call in the business, “filler” because even with all the above-mentioned subplots and issues, not all that much really happens. Instead, the film chugs along at the same constant speed as the Y.V.R.R’s outdated steam engines.
In spite of its visual beauty, “Day” plays like a long student film, full of highly stilted and artificially-flat dialogue. I found myself checking my watch half way through the film’s 87 minutes; an indication that rather than being brisk, leaping and shining, this “Day” was partially cloudy at best.