Mexican director Alejandro Molina offers a visually stunning science fiction film which contemplates the question of whether the human race can control its over-swelling existence and if so at what cost. There is no time line or location where the film takes place only that in the dystopian future, earth has become so over-populated that a global government implants an enzyme into everyone’s DNA to regulate their operational hours separating them into day-time and night-time citizens or shifts. Neither side meet and are overlooked by sinister Leaders. Four very different lives are interwoven into the story where their aspirations to question their existence forces them to become exiles from the great Metropolis.
There are also no historical details as to how or why the world came to be this way but the audience are immediately introduced to Aurora, delicately portrayed by Sandra Echeverria (2033), who suffers quietly during the day from the loss of her child unaware of her whereabouts after she was taken by the guardians. Concurrently Doctor Urbano, played by the smooth Manuel Balbi (Seres: Genesis), is a scientist whom finds a girl called Luna, a wonderful debut performance by eight-year-old Gala Montes de Oca, who’s DNA pattern has strangely changed from day-time to a night-time citizen. Intermittently is a story of Doctor Abraham performed brilliantly by Juan Carlos Colombo (Herod’s Law) who must convince his superiors that the enzyme has imperfections and could upset the whole system. Abraham assists Aurora to the discovery of her daughter Luna but in order to be with her she must function in a different shift. Her only option is to travel to Exterior, another realm outside of the city gates where both sets of citizens can remain but at a severe cost leaving an open ending that will not be popular to all viewers.
By Day and By Night, or De día y de noche when released last year in South America, has great shades of Nineteen Eighty-Four where the citizens are governed by over presiding laws as well as Christian Bale’s Equilibrium where human emotions are repressed and monitored so as to prevent any sentimentality affect their lives. The irony is that the factors manipulating human evolution are the same ones that break it free. Love, passion, free will, family values, nature and even the desire for hope are things we take granted and only seem to appreciate them when they are taken away – which begs the question if as a race we will ever find a balance? Molina attempts to answer this as well however he demands great patience from the audience as the slow moving pace resembles that of Kubrick’s 2001 where the lack of action sequences or dialogue in the last 20 minutes can be challenging to bear.
What can be accredited is the amazing cinematography that is rich is set design brushed from a palette of electric colours as well as the subtle performances from all the cast members who, under Molina’s direction, never force or push the story forward but rather let it glide and gently bloom into a beautiful Impressionist painting. This isn’t a sci-fi in the conventional form. It’s more Anderson’s Logan’s Run than Ridley’s Bladerunner but as directorial debut – it is a stark impression of a futuristic society that is perhaps approaching faster than we think.
Reviewed by Vaskar S. Kayastha