The world isn’t always the greatest place, and 35 years ago it was pretty terrible. Social realism tends to take the rose-coloured glasses of nostalgia off of movies set in the past, and that’s where Any Day Now stands. This is the antidote to modern day movies like The Kids Are All Right: a movie where good intentions are never enough if authority is going to stand in the way.
When his neighbour gets arrested for vice, drag performer Rudy Donatello (Alan Cumming, The Smurfs 2) takes in her 14-year-old son Marco (Isaac Leyva). He seeks help from DA Paul Fleiger (Garrett Dillahunt, 12 Years A Slave), and they form a makeshift family unit. When the nature of Rudy and Paul’s relationship becomes clear to authorities, they have to fight to keep Marcus with them and out of foster care.
Any Day Now has the potential to be a heartwarming story about an unlikely couple coming together and raising a kid who has Down syndrome, but it’s based on a true story, and real life frequently has a way of being bumpy. The main secret of the piece is the real chemistry between Cumming and Dillahunt, who appear not just as a loving couple but as responsible parents. Despite Rudy’s career, the character never descends into caricature and, despite his money problems, he’s never viewed as less than a person. Dillahunt gracefully portrays a man who has to balance his very real feelings with his understanding of privilege and prejudice.
Crucially, Leyva is made an equal player in the movie and is never condescended to by the people who count. Marco’s situation is always handled sensitively and, most importantly, he is never treated as a prop.
Writer/director Travis Fine (The Space Between) leans too heavily on sentiment, littering the film with home movies and gently tinkling piano music to emphasise just how normal these people are and how bad it is that something could be taken away from them. When the scenes are unadorned, the actors get the chance to work the material, which is a simple amalgam of love and a natural reaction to injustice.
Any Day Now is not, by any stretch, a heartwarming film. It’s a deeply frustrating film, both on a social and structural level. Films where actors have to struggle against authorial intent to communicate the purest form of their message are never going to be complete successes, and Fine’s saccharine emphasis of the family unit frequently clashes with the harsher realities of the situation. Any Day Now never quite sinks, but it doesn’t have the right level of buoyancy to truly satisfy.
Any Day Now opened in Australian cinemas on April 10th.
Directed by: Travis Fine.
Starring: Garrett Dillahunt, Alan Cumming, Isaac Leyva.