This low budget Mexican sci-fi drama-thriller has a neat jumping off point: In the future, overpopulation has become such a problem that human beings are segregated into day and night shifts triggered by sunlight. The two shifts never meet, which causes a problem for day-shift scientist Aurora (Sandra Echeverria) when her young daughter disappears and – unbeknownst to her – turns up on the night shift.
Unfortunately the execution is poor. The most glaring issue is the design. It’s the kind of futurescape that felt dated 30 years ago: the people all wear identical skintight jumpsuits with stuck-on shiny bits. The more important government types have robes with added shimy bits. They live in a city protected by a forcefield from the outside world. When they’re working people wear silly oversized helmets. Everything is grey (naturally) and everything is cold and clinical. People eat a large biscuit in the morning that covers all their dietary requirements…
We’ve seen it all a hundred times before, although rarely in recent decades and for good reason.
And while the shift system premise has possibilities it offers nothing new in terms of story either. There’s overpopulation, a totalitarian Big Brother government, a domed city, the inevitable trip to the Exterior – it’s all got a decidedly Logan’s Run vibe to it.
The performances are just as bland, although Echeverria does a decent job in the scenes where she’s expressing the basic human emotions that she’s never experienced before. It’s a future where humanity has been drummed out of people but even with regard to the heroes – who are supposed to be different – everything is so maddeningly po-faced.
The film’s best moments are the family scenes. Aurora finds her daughter and Urbano (Manuel Balbi) the doctor who hides her from the authorities. They’re in a sleep that only darkness can break and her eyes close at the same moment theirs open, but through holding each other and recorded video messages a family unit develops. When she chooses to hold him while he sleeps – and he wakes to find her there – a love story emerges. I’d have been happy if the writers had dumped most of the evil government plot in favour of moments like these, but humanity is not By Day and by Night‘s strong suit.
I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s good that it at least goes off on a high note; indeed the film’s single best scene.
Director: Alejandro Molina
Writers: Alejandro Molina, Roberto Garza
Stars: Sandra Echeverría, Marius Biegai, Manuel Balbi