A deadpan romance is at the heart of Frank Aboud’s debut film Comes A Bright Day
We don’t seem to cherish home grown films enough. Outside London, with multiplexes filling screen after screen with the same US blockbusters there is little space for smaller UK movies and even in the capital they are often restricted to a week at a film festival or in an obscure cinema. Combined with more modest promotional means, many ventures disappear without trace. There is also the issue of people believing all British films are grimy, gangster packed, gritty and humourless, a notion some filmmakers seem determined to nurture for credibility’s sake. Odder still is when a UK film does make a commercial breakthrough it is compared to US successes as if we can’t think of our own ideas.  Comes A Bright Day, released to buy this week after only a limited big screen outing last month does not slip easily into handy categories. The debut of writer / director Frank Aboud, you could call it a heist movie, a black comedy or a romance – it’s all of these things yet more. It’s not perfect but in its own way is a quiet triumph.
Sam Smith (Craig Roberts) works in a luxury hotel but shares with best mate Elliot (Anthony Welsh) a dream of opening an Italian restaurant called `Vici`. Sent to antique jewellers shop `Clara`, whose assistant Mary Bright (Imogen Poots) he has already bumped into at the café where Elliot works, Sam finds himself held hostage, along with Mary and the shop’s owner Charlie (Timothy Spall). Their captors are two rather inept but trigger happy thieves with the unlikely names Cameron (Kevin McKidd) and Clegg (Josef Altin).
 The film’s initial burst of violence settles into telling how the quintet interacts in the tense situation trapped in the shop, surrounded by armed police. A film like this relies on our empathy with the characters and also on the script being true to its own parameters. This is where Aboud scores because he takes what could be an over familiar scenario and gradually takes us along a different route.
Each of the three hostages is in a pivotal time in their lives; Charlie has recently lost his wife after whom the shop is named and it becomes clear that her personality is ingrained in every item sitting in the glass cases. While the jewellery is expensive each item also has a story attached to it. Mary is about to emigrate but you can see she has her doubts, mainly about leaving Charlie on his own. So it is Sam who is the catalyst, re-igniting Charlie’s zest for life  (early on when threatened he has shouted “I’m dead already”) and thawing Mary’s initially frosty demeanour.
Aboud sets his scene well, leaving us in no doubt both as to how struck Sam is when he first meets Mary and then how dangerous the thieves are when another customer in the shop is brutally killed and we appear to be heading to the expected  areas.   Instead we witness the way the captors slowly lose control and how Sam and Mary begin to edge towards a deadpan romance.
One of the first things you notice is the jazzy musical score credited to Joel Cadbury, Melissa Parmenter and Paul Stoney.  Vaguely 1960s in feel, it supports the visualisation of a part of London mostly removed from modern day concerns. There’s plenty of dry humour from the off plus a handful of excellent twists, each small but significant while every few scenes the tension rises only to be diffused by something unexpected. Each character unfurls with dextrous skill, thanks to Adobe’s unhurried script and the actors' understanding of the dynamic that drives each of the characters.

It may well be in years to come the careers of both Imogen Poots and Craig Roberts will soar and this film will be re-discovered. The relationship between Mary and Sam is kept to a series of quietly barbed exchanges, further pushed by her belief that he is in on the heist. Mary is such a captivating character whose outward behaviour suggests coldness but who is clearly bubbling underneath with love ; Imogen Poots   captures this perfectly.  Timothy Spall can often give the appearance of ease and Charlie is a character who starts the film believing his life is over even though he continues to play the host. As matters develop he starts to see a new venture that can inspire him. Craig Roberts’ Sam does tend towards dialogue that can seem a little too sculpted for someone so young, then again there is no reason why the main character in a film should not be well educated. Aboud has limited time to build Sam and Elliot’s business ambition back story but both actors carry it with enough conviction for us to believe.

Beyond occasional glimpses of police activity outside we never see the other side of the negotiations so their response to the antagonists’ demands are not heard by us and this plays well with the captors’ increasing frustration that nothing is happening. Kevin Mckidd has the most difficult role in that Cameron is clearly several cards short of a full deck. One moment he is threatening all and sundry, the next he is moved by some opera music. Aboud never quite nails his character as well as his captives and there is an awkward, out of place moment when he appears to be about to assault Mary that seems to have been placed there simply to add weight to Sam’s willingness to do anything to help her, albeit in his lachrymose way.  Clegg, played at just the right level by  Josef Altin is the most overtly comic ingredient who manages to get himself shot and panics easily; a loose cannon you feel could upset the whole thing.

Despite some action moments, much of the film resembles a play in which we slowly get to know each of the characters. The unhurried pace may frustrate some viewers more used to the rat-a-tat-tat of Guy Richie and co, but Aboud wants to create something more long lasting. His uses of close up shots of diamonds and prisms adds to the mood and there are some stand out scenes notably where Mary tells the tale behind one item of jewellery in the shop, Imogen Poots holding the screen with natural grace. It is one of the loveliest scenes you’ll see all year.
Filmed in a month in a real jewellers shop in London's Bury Street, it has a distinct visual look, defined by the exotic interior of the jewellery shop and John Lynch’s cinematography favours darker hues with splashes of colour provided by the décor. It is the case that the plot slots slightly too cleanly into place, especially at the end but that should not detract from the feeling that these people deserve an optimistic conclusion. This is a film that could- and should- enjoy a long life as one of those films that comes along every so often and slowly charms you into liking it.

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