Delicate and poignant, Travis Fine’s new drama Any Day Now has taken audiences by storm in the past year, garnering awards around the US for its moving and innovative critique of the biases inherent in the American justice system of the 1970s. The film focuses on Rudy (Alan Cumming) and Paul (Garett Dillahunt), a homosexual couple who unexpectedly find themselves the caretakers of a mentally handicapped child, Marco (Isaac Leyva), when his mother (Jamie Anne Allman) is arrested on a drug possession charge. Rudy takes the child in without hesitation after he escapes from his foster home, relying on Paul to cope with the legal complications of their actions. As their time with Marco grows, the couple begin to love and care for him as their own, all the while attempting to hide the nature of their relationship with each other from Paul’s employers at the district attorney’s office. When their love affair is discovered and Marco is taken away by child services, they are forced to battle the American legal system head on, navigating its many biases against homosexuality in an effort to regain custody of their beloved adopted son. It soon becomes evident that their fight for parental rights cannot be divorced from their fight for sexual equality and equal treatment before the court of law. As tensions rise and the couple grow ever more desperate, Marco’s future becomes increasingly uncertain.
Travis Fine directs with grace and elegance, transforming what could have otherwise been a melodramatic and overly sentimental story into a raw and authentic look at the ties that bind lovers and families together, regardless of sexual orientation. The intimate camerawork and simplicity of the domestic sequences ensure that viewers are subtly pulled into a naturalistic drama that makes no pretense to offer grand, sweeping solutions to social justice issues that continue to plague our society nowadays. Home-video aesthetics add touches of familiarity and bliss to the footage of familial moments, creating a sense of privacy as viewers explore the domestic lives of this ultimately ordinary family. This is not to say that the film is without its histrionic moments, however. The musical performances that Rudy partakes in as a drag queen are frivolous and flirty at the beginning, setting the stage for the development of his relationship with Paul. The later musical numbers are demure and intense by contrast, but fail to erase Rudy’s previously frisky persona and somehow don’t entirely convey the pain he communicates so evocatively in his acting otherwise.
For the most part, however, Any Day Now stands out as managing to brilliantly intersect problems of marriage equality and prejudice with the difficulties inherent in parenting, particularly in terms of handicapped children and the increased care they require. Fine questions the preconceived differences between straight and gay parenting, probing into how societal discrimination can become not only objectionable, but dangerous. His tone feels critical but never preachy, achieving a voice that not only exposes the issues at hand but humanizes them, allowing the audience to access them in a truly relatable manner.
Much of the film’s captivating quality lies in the performances of its central protagonists – particularly Alan Cumming’s stunning interpretation as Rudy. Often a presence in mainstream supporting roles but notable for his numerable independent lead performances, Cumming proves once again that his nuance for character and expandable range has not diminished. He commands every scene, crafting Rudy into a lovable jumble of contradictions as he navigates his unruly, wild personality as a drag queen and his compassionate paternal instinct after meeting Marco. The wondrous thing is that Cumming can accomplish both without batting a (false) eyelash; he oscillates effortlessly from spontaneous to invested, without ever rendering a false note, musical or otherwise. His raw and emotive nature performance, however, overshadows that of his co-star Dillahunt in almost every occasion. While Dillahunt aptly captures the persona of the lawyer struggling to come to terms with the sacrifices necessary in order to accept his sexuality openly, he often fails to stand on equal ground with Cumming in terms of performance complexity. Overall, however, the actors have achieved a playful and intimate chemistry that is palpable onscreen and a pleasure to watch unfold. Though their roles as parents could have been delved into even further, Fine’s choice to focus on the blossoming of their relationship is one that proves moving and affective.
Essentially, Any Day Now tackles a challenging storyline with an eye to the troubling implications of the prejudice and biases that hamper the American justice system. In blending a memorable lead performance with meticulous cinematography and powerful writing, Travis Fine has crafted a deeply emotive cinematic drama that utilizes a historical setting to treat extremely current social issues. Though both a gripping portrayal of the inequalities of justice and an authentic examination of the difficulties inherent in securing parenting rights for homosexuals, Any Day Now ultimately goes beyond its political agenda to offer an absorbing and pensive story of familial love.
Any Day Now is out in cinemas today from Peccadillo Pictures; to find out where you can catch the film, check here.