I've been hearing about the film 1 DAY for some time now. On the surface, it pushes many of my buttons; It's set and filmed in the Midlands, uses local actors and deals with the gang warfare and gun culture that's gone ignore by the national media.
So controversial was the film that several cinema chains refused to show it in the Midlands. The filmmakers made claims of the police shutting down cinema's halfway through screenings and intimidating the chains into dropping the film. Whether that is the truth or guerrilla marketing doesn't really matter, all that matters is whether the film is any good.
I'll get to that.
I've talked before about my passion for bringing the region to some national attention. I could probably get where i want to be quicker by setting my stories in London or Glasgow, but that's not what i write for. There is a whole region that is being ignored, so i watched this film wanting it to be great. I'm also hungry for some filmmakers to make some real social films set in the region -and many other regions of Britain for that matter- and to use local talent as much as possible. There are problems there, a whole world that we're told doesn't exist in Britain.
I also like films that take risks, a film that tries something new is a film that is contributing to the language of cinema. 1 DAY certainly tries something new. It's a musical, a hip-hop crime drama, half the time showing an attempt at a gritty edged urban drama, half the time breaking out into backbeats and dance moves.
So if it pushes so many of my buttons, and takes a few interesting risks, does it work?
Not really. But I'm glad i watched it, and i think I'll watch it again.
the plot is fairly simple; Flash, a local drug dealer, has lost 500k of someone else's money. He's on the run from the angry owner of the cash, a rival gang and three woman who've mothered his children. In fact, the plot itself doesn't really have much life to it, it moves along far to predictably.
There is plenty here to like (if you're me, anyway.) It's filmed on location, and showcases many places i recognise. Seeing the aerial shots of the city reminds us that there are large and interesting cityscape's outside of London. The actors or all local, for better and for worse. Whilst it's nice to hear real regional accents instead of the ones that actors from elsewhere put on, there's also a lack of any real gravitas. Whilst the smaller parts in the film are given a flavour and a depth for being played by local people, it would have helped to have something a little extra in the leading roles. The leading man is fine, but the film doesn't protect him by hiding his rawness or his weaknesses.
I would say that if you're going to take the route of local casting for main roles, then the writing needs to be top notch to help balance things out. I think this would be my main criticism of the film; the writing is not strong enough. The songs are not as lyrically complex or insightful as hip hop can, and should, be and I've already mentioned the weak plotting. The dialogue is in bad need of an edit; much of it may well have been improvised by the inexperienced actors, but then this should be fixed and tightened in the edit. There is too much moralising, too many people having monologues on how tough life is in the game. Don't tell us, show us.
Aside from the problem of 'show don't tell,' the film also struggles with a lot of the things we've discussed on here; It rambles, it doesn't get to the point and it doesn't leave out the bits that people tend to skip.
But i don't want to sound so negative on a film that deserves a hell of a lot of credit for what it does get right. The directing is good; there are some nice visual touches and the right amount of restrained flair. The film looks like a million pounds, even if it cost half that amount. It's a very bold film, and one that is probably too ambitious. It falls short of that ambition, but I'd rather have a film like this on my shelf than any number of billion dollar Transformers Vs The Munchkins From Mars soulless epics.
In fact, many of the things I've identified as weaknesses add to the character of the film. It's rough around the edges, but i think I'll enjoy giving it another try.