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First Look Review - A Day Like Today

Over the course of a day, a homeless man bonds with a kindly woman.


Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Gerard Walsh

Starring: Paul Butler Lennox, Andie McCaffrey Byrne, Thomas Reilly


It takes a secretive sort of alchemy to create a film that is memorable and appealing. Hollywood screenplays are doctored and rewritten almost endlessly in quest of such magic, with only a small fraction actually making it to production. For those that do get greenlit, again, variables conspire. Actors sign on, locations are carefully scouted, investors are courted, and a mini army works together to limit the risk of a particular film's failure; yet still there is no guarantee of quality. So it is all the more exciting when a true independent like Gerard Walsh’s A Day Like Today surfaces, sidestepping all usual processes, and achieving its charm on a budget of only €450, relying on little more than the raw, manifest talents of its cast and crew, and the bruised but beating heart at its centre.
A chance encounter leads homeless Joe (Paul Butler Lennox) to meet Alice (Andie McCaffrey Byrne). Alice takes pity on Joe, and gives him a lift into town, where the two spend some time together, exploring the city and taking in its impressive sights. And… well… that’s it really. A Day Like Today languorously proceeds to follow the two while they wander around Dublin, chatting about old TV shows, their lives, and larking about in a sort of Irish Before Sunrise style. As the film’s dreamy shots of the city melt into one another and its (improvised?) dialogue unfolds, it transpires that Alice’s marriage is unhappy, and the reasons behind Joe’s destitution are also gradually explained.
Midway through the film’s gentle, rhythmic stride, the tempo ups with the introduction of Joe’s ne’er-do-well brother Mickey (Thomas Reilly), and a plot develops involving old scores and unpaid debts. This gentle unravelling of story is secondary to the lively performances of the leads though, with Lennox and McCaffrey creating characters that are naturalistic and entirely beguiling, and we float along with the two as the film drifts from urban romance, to crime thriller, to domestic drama, never once losing its assured style or sense of purpose. The initial flourish of Joe and Alice’s friendship is especially well done, capturing that barely reserved sense of anticipation when you meet someone special and you dare to suspect that the feeling is mutual; the humanity of A Day Like Today is palpable.
The film’s lack of budget is barely noticeable; put simply, the sort of chemistry displayed by Lennox and McCaffrey you just can’t buy, and the assuredness of Walsh’s direction would seem intuitive. The use of real life locations is subtle and evocative, giving the film the genuine feel and flavour of breezy Dublin. Occasionally, certain shots linger for too long at notable buildings or upon rippling water reflecting sunset (leading me to wonder at times if some sort of under the table deal was completed with the Dublin tourist agency), but this is a minor gripe; for a film that is predicated upon two people wandering around chatting, A Day Like Today is exceptionally well paced. It is also completely delightful; perfectly invoking that strange alchemy when two people meet in the right moment, and everything falls into place, and, against all odds, a film which is as memorable as it is appealing is created.




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