One torture technique we have learned from television is to only give the tortured person just enough nutrients to survive, allowing them to pass through an empty period of decreasing health until a few more nutrients are provided.
In a way, this is how the Australian movie ‘One Perfect Day,’ which opens at the University Center’s Edwards Theaters on June 9, works. ‘Day’ provides just enough catchy music or cinematographic techniques to hold the viewer’s interest long enough to skip over the slow sections of the movie.
‘Day,’ which originally hit theaters outside the United States in 2004, follows the musical journey of a young, enigmatic and eccentric classical composer named Tommy (Dan Spielman), who is drawn to Melbourne, Australia’s urban club scene. Through tragedies and moments of artistic realization, we follow the intensely stolid Tommy, whose unconventional musical preferences fit well with the electronica to which he is eventually attracted.
‘Every day,’ Tommy says as he records the humming of a homeless person in a subway station, ‘I saw what no one listens to.’
Cinematographer Gary Ravenscroft does a magnificent job capturing the atmosphere of the club scene through cut frames and and the world of Tommy’s sister Emma (Abbie Cornish), a 17-year-old, before she succumbs to a drug overdose on her birthday.
In conversations Emma has with her older brother’s girlfriend, Alysse (Leeanna Walsman), the lack of any background music makes the scene feel real. Yet when the script falls flat and no music provides a backdrop to carry the movie, the viewer is left helpless to understand why he is still watching.
The one sympathetic character and excellent acting comes from Emma and Tommy’s mother, Carolyn (Kerry Armstrong), who is forced to deal with her daughter’s premature death and the discovery that she was pregnant. We never find out who the father is or why Emma would want to begin having sex so early and against her mother’s will, but this is not a problem as ‘Day’ succeeds in the musical sequences when traces of classical music are blended with electronica.
Still, this does not excuse ‘Day’ from creating a storyline with unsympathetic characters. A pregnant 17-year-old dying after a drug overdose is sad, but we don’t care about Emma. Similarly, no one wants to see a vulnerable woman punched by an abusive nightclub owner, almost raped and forcibly injected with a needle, but no one should care about Alysse’s fate.
So, ‘Day’ must rely on the music and Tommy’s artistic moments of genius, which don’t arrive in full force until the second third of the movie. After Tommy’s sister dies from drugs that his girlfriend gave her, Tommy visits the Trance Zen Club, where his sister spent her final night. He sees a lavishly dressed woman on a platform blowing bubbles and hears classical music in his head which corresponds to this woman’s motions. As Tommy looks at the full club, the symphony in his head becomes grander and his unexpected smile widens. We have witnessed the inner workings of someone ‘Day’ wants us to believe is an artistic genius, or is at least artistically quirky.
Besides disconnected characters, ‘Day’ also leaves viewers jarred with abrupt scene transitions.
But just as viewers are losing complete interest in ‘Day,’ the movie strikes back with great music