Any Wednesday

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Any Wednesday
"Delicately judged and interspersed with moments of gentle comedy, what may sound like a saccharine story of friendship against the odds manifests onscreen as something much more intelligent and nuanced."

Agnes (Mary Black) used to be a schoolteacher. She has spent a lifetime dealing with knowledge but now, in her eighties, she struggles to retain it. Determined to remain as independent as she can, she drives herself to choir practice despite her family's worries - and one night, coming home, she meets a war veteran who is struggling with a different kind of mental health problem. As it's raining and he has nowhere to go, she offers him a ride.

Different Americas meet in Allie Light and Patrick Stark's film. The image of a frail white lady who lived through the Jim Crow era side by side with a black soldier who intermittently loses control sends out all sorts of complex social signals and it takes the characters themselves a while to figure out where they stand with one another, but in the end age and race have little to do with what matters to them. She's frustrated by what she can't remember; he's haunted by what he can. In the closeness of the car they find a space that is outside time, where the usual rules don't apply and they can express themselves in a much more direct, natural way.

Smarter and better balanced than Driving Miss Daisy, though there is tension throughout because of the danger that somebody else will misinterpret what is happening between the two, the film explores not just the direct experience of mental illness but the way that sufferers are marginalised and left out of conversations about their own needs. Both characters are to some degree manipulative, though white viewers may be slower to spot this because we're all so used to giving white women a pass in situations where they might feel vulnerable. This quality isn't used to make the characters seem unpleasant, however, so much as it's used to demonstrate their intelligence and the way that each of them has learned to prioritise certain basic needs. Precarious though they are, they're both survivors, and there's a sense that they recognise this in one another where other people might not.

Delicately judged and interspersed with moments of gentle comedy, what may sound like a saccharine story of friendship against the odds manifests onscreen as something much more intelligent and nuanced. A scene in which the veteran threatens a Sikh shop worker brings us up sharp just as we're warming to him. It's an invitation to acknowledge the ugly things that PTSD can do. The film asks us to care about its protagonists not because they are always easy to like but because they are human.

Shot by night in rainy conditions, this is a technically impressive film, getting just enough light where it's needed to let us follow what's happening without it looking unnatural. Strong sound design really contributes to the sense of place despite the fact that these events could be happening almost anywhere in America, at any time. Both actors are intense in their different ways, embodying different kinds of tragedy without letting their characters be reduced to just that. The result is a potent little film that's troubling when it ought to be but always humane.

Reviewed on: 27 Nov 2019
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An octogenarian with dementia meets a PTSD afflicted homeless war veteran after choir practice and gives him a ride instead of going home.

Director: Allie Light, Patrick Stark

Writer: Allie Light

Starring: Mary Black, Shane Dean, John Innes

Year: 2018

Runtime: 36 minutes

Country: US

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