October 9, 2019 | UK Film Review
Directed by #ChrisMorris
Film review by Nathanial Eker
Acclaimed satirist and black comedy connoisseur Chris Morris writes and directs The Day Shall Come; a film that while certainly satirical, lacks substance, character, and a sense of tone. The director’s signatures are all present; the likeable rogue archetype, semi documentary style cinematography, and of course, biting political commentary. However, The Day Shall Come never quite hits the pointed level of commentary that it strives for; neither savagely deconstructing societal problems or crafting a believable deuteragonist on the side of the law to understand.
Moses (Davis) is the broke, delusional leader of a quasi-religious commune in Miami, following an amalgamation of the spiritually absurd including praying to idols like ‘Black Santa.’ He and his four followers preach muddled teachings about communication with god via ducks, the use of dinosaurs in combat, and an inevitable race war. Meanwhile, our deuteragonist is Kendra (Kendrick), a young FBI agent trying to overcome industry sexism and make a name for herself. Kendra and her associates plan to trick Moses and his crew into committing acts of terror, thereby fulfilling their arrest quota and ticking corporate boxes.
This conflict should act as the film’s satirical smoking gun: a damming indictment of the American government and its abject betrayal of ethnic minority groups for its own self-interest. This message becomes abundantly apparent by the climax and though seemingly insightful, Morris fails to address the more interesting question of subsequent radicalisation. Though the (almost) all white male FBI team are a clear allegory for the white middle class’s suppression of poor black communities, the film bizarrely underplays this element. It instead chooses to make passing references to racism and put focus on the farcical incompetence of the espionage upper echelons.
The Day Shall Come succeeds most when it fully accepts itself as a comedy. The majority of jokes stick the landing, especially those by the endearing naive ‘The Star of Six’ troops; the ‘mango’ line is a favourite. However, unlike Morris' last film, Four Lions, where humour and political satire blended comfortably, the two don’t get on here and prefer to sulk in different scenes. When the story reaches its apex, the emotion is frustratingly undercut by mistimed japes until it’s too late to be fully invested. Equally, the jokes themselves are unable to land due to the severity of the stakes. It’s lose-lose, creating a muted ambiance that accompanies each scene with a miasma of tonal confusion.
This tonal unbalance in the script makes the job of the actors difficult. On the one hand, Davis brings a charming sweetness to the imbecilic and borderline psychotic Moses. This compounded by a believable relationship with Danielle Brooks’ Ve, (another strong performance), serves to successfully make our likeable protagonist sympathetic. Unfortunately, unlike the camaraderie and electric chemistry between the jihadists in Four Lions, Moses’ followers are given little individual time to shine and subsequently little in the way of personality.
Equally problematic are the FBI staff, who amount to little more than stereotypes with unrealistic levels of profanity ridden wit (this branch of the FBI was apparently trained at SNL). Our avatar into this world, Kendra also sadly fails to deliver any semblance of real empathy towards Moses during the hard-hitting finale, leading to a flat climax. Though we empathise with her battle against everyday misogyny and corporate red tape, she ultimately offers little more beyond nervous energy and the occasional amusing one liner.
Ultimately, The Day May Come suffers from leaning too far into the farcical and loses its humanity as a result. While it attempts to present a harsh look at a defective system and a brutal class divide, the severity fails to materialise due to a disparity between comedy and drama. That said, it remains a comedy and in places, is side splittingly funny. It’s just a shame that the core message is diluted, creating a film that feels underwhelming and muted. Perhaps the day shall come where Morris crafts something as brilliantly profound and witty as Four Lions, but today is sadly not that day.