A Day and a Half (2023)

A Day and a Half (2023)

Westworld star Fares Fares holds us in a tense hostage situation and intimate family drama in his directorial debut



Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Alexej Manvelov, Alma Pöysti, Annica Liljeblad
96 min

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Excellent suspense and drama, but only if you pay close attention, even in the calm, slow dialogue scenes. This isn't a film to play in the background.

What it's about

Desperately wanting to reunite with his daughter, ex-convict and Albanian father Artan Kelmendi (Alexej Manvelov) storms into his estranged wife Louise Bremer’s (Alma Pöysti) workplace to hold her at gunpoint.

The take

With its grounded approach, A Day and a Half feels real, even if the exact events are fictional. Inspired by a couple of lines from a 2008 news article, Fares Fares crafts an intimate family drama for his first directorial debut, built in the bones of a hostage thriller. As a thriller, Fares consistently maintains its suspense, camera eyeing the gun present in most of the film. However, as the cop Lucas tries to defuse the situation with hostage-taker Artan, and the situation escalates to the National Task Force, Artan and Louise confront their broken family, lines opened by improvised hostage negotiations. While Artan’s understandable reasons shouldn’t absolve him of his actions, A Day and a Half effectively builds tension, only relieved at its slightly unrealistic but cathartic ending.

What stands out

In the hands of Fares Fares, his first directorial feature takes a more grounded and intimate approach to the hostage film. Negotiations between Lukas and Artan aren’t flashy. Lukas’ words remain calm and measured all throughout the film, but Fares’ direction creates a tension felt under the cool tone of Lukas’ voice. On Lukas, the camera is steady, but on Artan, the camera shifts each time Artan moves his gun. The camera eyes the potential danger, the same way cops do, but also spotting certain opportunities, like other hostages that could be released. Fares’ direction (and his acting!) creates a visceral experience of Lukas’ internal alarm, even at moments without score or fast paced action or flashy cinematography. It’s a great fit for a film all about negotiation.

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