Saturday, July 8, 2017

Kill the Day

A junkie steals a bag from a locker, spends time in jail, tries to go clean, and reflects on his childhood in Lynne Ramsay's 18-minute short Kill the Day (1996).

The junkie is James Gallagher (James Ramsay), and it's through him we see the world around him: grim, indifferent, and cold. He has a haunted, cadaverous face, filled with lines and shadows, and Ramsay shows them in many closeups that also allow us to see his mind working. For some reason, he reminded me of Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown in My Left Foot, perhaps because of how thin Gallagher looks and for the number of shots of him lying in bed, looking desperate and helpless.

Ramsay keeps her camera close to Gallagher. At times, the short feels like it could be a documentary. It's an intimate portrayal. Even the flashback of Gallagher as a boy frolicking in a field with some friends has the quality of a home movie. The film feels gritty and immediate.

Elsewhere, Ramsay films Gallagher in ways to suggest he is trapped: inside a bathroom stall, the blank walls of his cell, his face against the glass of a window, etc. We see him on the floor or lying on his bed, showing how low he has sunk in the grips of addiction and recovery. Everywhere he goes, he's confined.

Curiously, we never see Gallagher actually take drugs (unless you count smoking cigarettes). Perhaps such a scene wasn't needed. We can already see what effect they've had on his life. Maybe such a scene would have caused to judge him and disapprove of him. Ramsay does not ask us to judge Gallagher, only to understand him and see how the world treats him.

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