I’m sorry to deliver an ixnay on Julia Noktev‘s Day Night Day Night , but that’s how I see this worthy but incomplete low-budgeter. It’s distinctive, unsettling and fascinating in this and that way, but it just doesn’t make it in the end.
The pic acquired a rep during its Telluride Film Festival exposure that it was some kind of “Bressonian” (as in Robert Bresson) or “Dreyer-like” (as in Carl Dreyer) exercise, and therefore deserving of everyone’s attention and respect. (What this boils down to is a certain type of elitist buzz that some critics find intimidating — I do not.) Anyway, I saw it yesterday evening at the Cumberland and I basically emerged feeling respectful but underwhelmed.
It’s a very spare and exacting account of a 19 year-old girl (Luisa Williams) of Middle East origin and intense eyes who’s holed up in a motel (possibly in New Jersey) outside of Manhattan to prepare for a suicide bombing in Times Squate. Hang the spoiler element — I don’t think it’s realistic to try and keep Williams’ mission a secret so we might as well just blow the lid off. I saw it knowing what the deal was in advance, and if anything it helped me to deal with the tedium that dominates during the first half.
All I can say is that Day Night Day Night doesn’t pay off in a way that any Average Joe moviegoer would consider remotely satisfying. You know nothing “big” (as in KABLOOM!) is going to happen because Noktev obviously doesn’t have the budget to convey this, or even suggest it. Noktev skillfully exploits the audiences’ sense of dread and anticipation as Williams gets closer and closer to her big button-pushing moment, but the movie still feels like a rip. An interesting, well-made model, yes, but a rip nonetheless.