I love it when people email me recommending films they think I might like based on my past reviews. Last year, I received that type of email recommending TiMER on Netflix Instant (which has since gained a small following — I saw it in the top 100 rentals on iTunes just this last week), and last December, a very nice reader named Marilyn suggested that I might like the British romantic comedy, In a Day, which is also currently available on Netflix Instant.
It took me four months to finally get around to watching In a Day, but Marilyn was right. And if you’re feeling beholden to your Netflix queues right now, let me assure you that there’s little more enjoyable and liberating than completely ignoring the stack of titles piling up in your electronic queues and stumbling, instead, into a hidden gem, particularly one that’s an absorbing and briskly paced 84 minutes long. In a Day is a lovely little film, an indie romance free of whimsy or pretension, but also not one bogged down by melodramatic speeches or big romantic gestures that will throttle your gag reflex. It’s a simple story, a low-stakes walking-talking film filled to the brim with nice moments that culminate in a very sweet, underscored finale.
Written and directed by Evan Richards — whose only familar credit is as Bill S. Preston, Esq. in the “Bill and Ted’s” television series — In a Day begins at a bus stop outside of sandwich shop where Ashley (Lorraine Pilkington, with whom I have no familiarity) works. Her shop has been closed for the day, so she’s headed home when a man approaches her and crudely propositions her. After rebuffing him, a disgusted Ashley eventually walks away, only to have the vulgar man throw his coffee on her. Upset and embarrassed, a few minutes later Ashley bumps into Michael (Finlay Robertson) on the street. He’s a frequent customer in the sandwich shop with whom Ashley has never shared more than a friendly word or a glancing nod.
Nevertheless, in a sweet but aggressive way, Michael convinces the flustered and harried Ashley to have a cup of tea with him, and after establishing a repartee, Michael talks Ashley into helping him shop for an expensive blouse for his sister. After Ashley tries on a number of items, Michael buys Ashley the one she liked the most, despite her protestations. Unexpectedly, over the course of the day, Michael continues to dote on Ashley; he takes her to a salon, out to a very nice dinner, and walks through the park.
What we don’t understand, however, is why? Why does Michael, who is an average-looking graphic designer who is clearly not of means, decide to give this woman he met in a sandwich shop an almost lavish “good day”? Why does he act so presumptuous? What are his motives? Is it romantic? Something sinister? Is he doing it at the request of someone else? Or is he just a good guy who decided to treat a stranger well for a day?
It’s in trying to discern that underlying motive that makes In a Day as compelling as it is. But the characters are also likable, their chemistry low-key but ingratiating. It’s easy to become invested in them, as people, and by the end, want to know why this man is treating this stranger so well.
Still, In a Day is not the type of movie that will wow you or bowl you over. It’s not overly clever, it doesn’t feature amazing acting performances, and there are no brilliant turns of phrases. But it’s an engaging movie and a very sweet one, precisely the kind of film that makes for a great rainy day afternoon on Netflix Instant with a hot beverage and a significant other.