REVIEW: Day One [2015]

Score: 4/10 | ★ ½


Rating: NR | Runtime: 25 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (USA)
Director(s): Henry Hughes
Writer(s): Henry Hughes / Henry Hughes & Dawn DeVoe (story)

“This is my first job”

It’s just too much: too manipulative, too familiar, and too convenient. The trouble with Henry HughesDay One all stems from one line when his American military unit’s new interpreter Feda (Layla Alizada) meets her predecessor Naz (Shari Vasseghi). They speak about being away from home and family in the context of their being wives—a legitimate concern with the Muslim religion holding a woman akin to property with which to serve her husband, but overly “feminine” as only a male writer could write (despite the story being co-created by a woman in Dawn DeVoe). Both divorced, the subject of children “naturally” arrives like we know it must and Feda admits she has none. More than that, she explains how she didn’t want any.

That was it. As soon as she said this line I knew where exactly where the film was going to go: the same place so many films these days do where the “career woman” who has no time for children finds her heart softened and biological clock ticking by the end. It’s such an archaic sentiment trying for emotional resonance despite only achieving a backhanded machismo that ultimately puts the female lead in her place as maternal above all else, her “natural” state. When the going gets tough she will hold out her arms, hold whatever child is being delivered her way, and all will finally be right with the world. I desperately hoped there would be more, but I knew the prospects were very thin.

The possibility did exist, though. The beginning depicts Feda’s commanding officer Lt. Adams (Bill Zasadil) walking in on her in the shower just as it appears her period starts. I think this is what’s happening as blood runs down her leg, but that’s not what freaks him out. It’s instead just the sound of a woman’s voice. But even though Hughes apparently ignores what he introduced, its presence made me believe this would be about a woman in the military showing these men that she’s their equal. Something like her period occurs and she’s unfazed—strength in the face of adversity. Instead it’s merely the first point of unrealized potential, a forgotten detail included for no reason but to hit us over the head that she’s female.

We literally learn nothing else. Who’s Dr. Nasir (Navid Negahban) and why does Adams need an interpreter on their latest trip when he appears to speak Arabic and English? Why does Nasir sometimes speak tell Feda in English what to tell someone inches away in Arabic when he could himself? It made me think that she didn’t need to be there except that the story contains a pregnant woman falling to induce the irregular birth of a sideways baby while Muslim customs prevent Nasir from entering the room to help. There are so many contrivances that it’s hard to take anything at face value. Every action and every revelation ultimately becomes rendered fictitious MacGuffins to put Feda’s maternal instincts front and center. No more, no less.


photography:
courtesy of Shorts HD

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