The French have a slur (“les roux ça puent”) that at its most basic says “redheads stink.” Some translations go so far as to say it means they stink like stinky vaginas. That’s a bit extreme (and strange), but whether due to Judas Iscariot, witches, or just a simple fear of the unusual, it’s an unfortunate fact that red-headed children are sometimes viewed as lesser versions of their “normal”-haired counterparts.
Rémy (Olivier Barthelemy) is a young man who knows this truth all too well as he’s been the brunt of abuses both verbal and physical born in large part to his dark, red hair. His rage leads to a physical assault against his own mother that sends him fleeing into the night and into the passing car of a bored psychoanalyst named Patrick (Vincent Cassel). The good doctor has come to grips with his own auburn hair, but he sees both a brother in follicles and an entertaining diversion in the disillusioned youth. He takes Rémy under his wing and challenges him through a succession of awkward and combative situations, but what starts as a deviation from his daily humdrum becomes a violent road-trip that spins wildly out of control.
Our Day Will Come is equal parts psychological drama, descent into madness, and buddy comedy, and it’s exactly as odd as it sounds.
“How long can you stay a dumb, dull red head?”
Rémy is tall for his age, but a childhood filled with beat downs has left him a cowardly teenager unfamiliar with real trust, friendship, or love. His teammates berate him on the field, his sister tells him in no uncertain terms that everyone hates him, and the girl he met online turns out to be yet another cruel twist of the knife into his self-esteem and sanity. This is especially sad after all that time he spent hanging rabbits at the cemetery for her too…
His life changes once he takes up with Patrick though as the older man throws Rémy head first into the awkward situation pool. He gets the teen into a fight with three “Arabs” and diagnoses him with Submissive Syndrome, a fictional affliction most common in boys who grow up around too many women resulting in his becoming “submissive, or 95% of the time a faggot.” Make no mistake, Patrick is not a friendly father figure hoping to save young Rémy from self immolation. Instead, he’s a perverted Dr. Frankenstein who mistakenly creates a monster when a newly energized Rémy decides Ireland is where the two redheads belong and resorts to violence in making that dream come true.
Director Romain Gavras (who also co-wrote the film with Karim Boukercha) makes his feature debut here after a brief but memorable music video career. (The film bears some thematic similarity to his controversial video for M.I.A.’s “Born Free.”) He makes a fairly destinctive mark here with both the film’s topic and energetic presentation. There’s certainly no shortage of downtrodden groups in this world, and while redheads may seem like a fairly silly minority to focus a film of this nature on Gavras pulls no punches in his depictions and descriptions of the abuse they suffer.
Rémy’s daily struggles and painful encounters are tangible, and those among us more familiar with taunts of “four-eyes,” “fatty,” or “book-smart vegetarian atheist” will feel an uncomfortable twinge of recognition as his rage builds. This is especially the case as Gavras moves the anger in unexpected directions, and while this is far from a revenge flick there are scenes here both cathartic and terrifying.
Unfortunately though, Barthelemy can’t quite deliver the goods. His only two modes seem to be fearful victim or focused man of action with little to no nuance in between. His size makes it difficult to see him as a victim, and his constantly looking toward the ground isn’t enough to convince otherwise. Once the switch is flicked within him and he finds his purpose it’s an emotional journey light on emotion or distinction.
Cassel meanwhile delivers a fine amalgamation of sad, middle-aged man, moral crusader, and pervert. He’s a stranger to none of these characteristics (and a master of the last one), but he makes the character work in fascinating ways. His assault (of sorts) on a paraplegic woman and her husband in a hot tub is a whirlpool of cruelty, self-loathing, and cringe-worthy deviance. Patrick’s arc is far from a sympathetic one, but Cassel finds the twisted heart at his center and offers the briefest of glimpses at the man within. When he cries out that they have “no language, no army, no country” it’s an honest and raw call to arms.
The film’s biggest issue comes in reply to that call as it’s not entirely clear that the script, let alone the characters, know what to do with it. Rémy’s impulsive belief that Ireland is waiting to welcome the two men as heroes is a bit of a red herring as the journey becomes far more important than the destination. Sexual identity comes into play on several occasions and highlights the possibility that Rémy’s issues run far deeper than his scalp, but not nearly enough is done with the idea. Similarly, their rage runs out of narrative steam well before they themselves do resulting in a film that sometimes feels undecided in where it’s heading.
Our Day Will Come is an aggressively engaging feature that highlights both Gavras’ strengths and weaknesses. The story and characters get away from him on occasion, but he maintains a fascinating grip on the film’s tone as it moves from tragic to sexy to humorous and back again. Incomplete but compelling, the film marks Gavras as a filmmaker to watch.
The Upside: Never dull; Vincent Cassel delivers a sad but frightening performance; blackly comic at times
The Downside: Disappointingly abrupt ending; Rémy isn’t an entirely convincing character, and Olivier Barthelemy’s performance is too frequently one note
On the Side: Romain Gavras is the son of acclaimed director Costa-Gavras.
Our Day Will Come is currently playing on VOD. Visit Oscilloscope for more details and check out the teaser trailer below.