Europe is on fire, and director Romain Gavras has a thing for redheads. In Greece, the Neo-Nazi affiliated Golden Dawn Party is getting away with the murder of activist/rapper Killah P. In Sweden, the thinly-veiled fascist National Socialist Workers’ Party is openly terrorizing immigrants and minorities they see as detrimental to a “pure” vision of the country. Malta’s PM is calling the Mediterranean a “cemetery” after hundreds of immigrant deaths in ill-equipped boats trying to reach southern Italy. French President François Hollande is pandering to the growing far-right presence in his country with his recent decision to allow a deported Romani teenager to return to France, but only without her family. The continent is socially and economically rending itself limb from limb; the point to take is that Romain Gavras is heavily conscientious of this information, and he has a thing for redheads.
Our Day Will Come, Gavras’s first foray out of the minor league of music videos into full-scale cinema, sees the Ed Banger director-in-residence expanding on his slick, Parisian-chic nihilism, both literally and figuratively. Concerning psychologically tormented and troubled teenager Rémy (Olivier Barthélémy) and sadistically unhinged psychologist Patrick (Vincent Cassel ) — both redheads — the film follows the pair into a violent search through the moral topography of Europe and the capacity for malice, seemingly inherent, in the human condition. In a misguided search for acceptance, Rémy naively ardors for Ireland, a place he conceives of as a bastion for “his people” while careening through Brittany alongside Patrick, a malevolent Virgil brandishing hatred and violence as instructional tools to elucidate how ugly people are. The experience is dark, uncomfortable, and visceral in nearly every second of the film.
Our Day Will Come is unmistakably a Romain Gavras production, parsing through familiar material with an even more familiar narrative mechanic: discrimination towards gingers (after watching the film even writing the word feels a bit like a racial slur). Gavras’s penchant for sharp cinematography and social malaise in the vein of Kassovitz circa La Haine, coupled with the brute and senseless violence traded on heavily by the New French Extremists, leaves the impression the director has cut the desired mixture of the two he’s sought after, but not fully formed. My primary grievance is that Gavras already scooped out what he could of the ginger plot device in his video for M.I.A’s “Born Free,” a ten minute mini-film depicting a ginger genocide. When I first saw the video I was struck to see minute ethnic variations that cause mass murder packaged in a way to make the Western World, i.e. white people, readily understand how (at the level of physical difference, at least)something like the Rwandan Genocide boils down to the innocuity between freckles and no-freckles. The trick was clever, but as a viewer already aware of his past work the premise felt threadbare.
Gavras’s strength has always been steeped in cinematography, and he flexes his prowess and knowledge in nearly every scene of this hour and a half runtime. Take Justice’s video “Stress” as representative, for instance: at its core there’s no story, just a gang of kids prowling through the banlieues of Paris wreaking havoc and setting a car on fire. Gavras’s ability to convey so much anxiety and nausea through his camerawork is what made the video an incredible experience. Our Day Will Come brims with static longshots of the blues and beiges of failed industry, taking full advantage of the naturally somber climate of Brittany. My favorite editing through the film — a technique that happens often — are these almost somnambulant longshots placed alongside extreme close-frames of the tense interactions splayed through the narrative. This constant contraction and retraction between external society and private hell lends the film an ad nauseum dread that the viewer is never able to distance theirself from. It’s kind of like Pharmakon staring you in the face, screaming, backing up, and repeating the process for the length of a film.
Gavras’s characters, in his music videos, have always been the nameless discontents victimized by society or lashing out at society. His first attempt to breathe life into his clay men in Our Day Will Come feels reductive in a lack of real depth, but logical in exploring a mind made up of entropy. Rémy is painful; quiet and withdrawn, the feeling is wrenching watching a shy kid undergo the psychological whips and slings present in every strata of society. Patrick, a strange and violent performance by Cassel that borders on a Kubrick villain, is the ever-present catalyst to the discord and mayhem almost constantly polluting the screen. In one of the most harrowing scenes, on par with the likes of Noé lite, Patrick staggers through an empty hotel in a long tracking shot, robe open, genitalia hanging in the wind, absently drinking from a glass of scotch as Rémy follows him with a crossbow. Gavras, apparently, can also dabble in a little surrealism.
Perhaps to try and package Our Day Will Come for the Landmark crowd or the AV Club sycophants, the film examines two feral creatures formed by external circumstance providing a commentary on the caustic social position Europe finds itself in. But fuck that. At its core, Our Day Will Come, like Gavras’s previous work, sees nothing but ugliness in the society that birthed it and snarls and bites in retaliation, hastening toward the destruction of itself or the world around it. Europe is on fire, and Gavras isn’t looking for solutions.