If the powers-that-be decided to split the population into two shifts – those who are awake during the day and those who are awake at night – would you rebel? Or, like the residents of By Day and By Night’s ‘Great Metropolis’ would you accept your fate and carry on, never seeing the other half of the population as the enzyme the government had given you sent you into a twelve-hour coma?
Such has been the fate of day-dweller Aurora (Sandra Echeverría) and night-dweller Urbano (Manuel Balbi). Both doctors, they have lived happy, uncomplicated lives until the sudden disappearance of Aurora’s daughter, Luna. Unable to give up on the little girl, despite warnings that ‘infants belong to all of us’ from a co-worker, Aurora starts to search for her daughter. Urbano, finding Luna, now awake at night, takes her in and begins an emotional journey that his formerly sterile life had never allowed.
High concept and low-budget, By Day and By Night (De día y de noche) is an impressive effort with several unfortunate faults. The nefarious government, represented by the authoritarian Tauro (Richie Mestre) and a conflicted and unnamed doctor (Marius Biegai) fail to convince, especially as the setting for their discussions is deliberately peculiar – a ruined amphitheatre, which is seemingly supposed to represent some kind of high-tech headquarters. Their plan appears to have been concocted out of sheer cruelty, rather than the calculated “betterment of society” motivation that one might have expected. There was an easy and obvious plot conclusion that would have made the whole thing hang together – writer and director Alejandro Molina has chosen to ignore it in favour of vagueness and confusion.
What does work, however, are the performances by Escheverría and Urbano. Tanned and athletic, Aurora seems the personification of daylight, while her sadness and fear for her daughter shine from every frame she occupies. Dark and pale Urbano is her polar opposite, and his stiff demeanour, gradually softened by Luna, is particularly well-acted. The rest of the cast fade into the background, which is a shame but doesn’t matter hugely, as this is really the story of two people divided by circumstance and united by the love of a child.
Filmhouse, 21 June 7.30pm, 23 June 5.50pm