This week's top film is 2012's "Any Day Now", directed by Travis Fine. This moving drama was a hit throughout the festival circuit and it's easy to see why. Starring Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt, it shines a poignant light on social issues of the 1970s that are still relevant today.
The film begins with the image of a little boy. He's wandering the streets alone, with a doll in tow. His name is Marco (played by Isaac Leyva) and he has Down syndrome. We aren't given any context for this scene until later in the film. However, it beautifully establishes the humanist tone that makes this film so special.
There's no denying that "Any Day Now" is a loaded film. It's inspired by a true story, mixing courtroom drama elements with a strong sense of "social issue" advocacy. The main roles are that of Rudy Donatello (Alan Cumming) and Paul Fliger (Garret Dillahunt), a gay couple who obtain custody of Marco after he is neglected by his drug-addicted single mother. At night, Rudy works as a drag queen while Paul makes his living as a lawyer. Together with Marco, they seem like an odd group but there's no denying the love shared between them.
Yet over the course of the film, society gradually rejects this notion of a family. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Rudy and Paul are deemed to be unfit parents due to their sexual orientation. Determined to preserve their home situation, the duo engage in a legal battle that addresses society's stigma with homosexuality. Set in an era that is decades away from our progress in terms of gay marriage, it highlights the irrational prejudice towards gay parenting. In particular, it's quite striking to see that a custody battle would favour a junkie single mother over a caring, supportive gay couple. Sadly, this is the reality and in this instance it endangered the life of an innocent child.
It's therefore no surprise that given the plot, the film falls into some of the cliches of similar social issue/courtroom dramas. It lays on the sentimentality too thick at times, including the usual moralistic monologues about justice and human rights. Still, its heart is in the right place. The lead performances feel so genuine that it works.
Most importantly, the film never loses its focus on that boy in the opening image. He doesn't get much to say but when he's on screen you feel his every emotion. All he wants is love, happiness and safety. It's this basic human rights message that speaks loudest in this film. On the surface it may seem like a story about gay rights, but their vulnerability pales in comparison to that of a neglected child.
"Any Day Now" is a film that proudly uses traditional storytelling technique (introduce characters, add conflict, conclude with resolution), but that's not a problem when it's accomplished with such sensitivity and compassion. While we are still negotiating the legal definitions of a family today, the truth remains that love and protection are the most important things. If you've lost sight of this basic truth, then I'm sure this film can help you see that.