Ambitious in scope, Days of Grace is set in Mexico during three time periods against the backdrop of the World Cup football tournaments of 2002, 2006 and 2010. These are the ‘days of grace’ in question, when both cops and crooks drop their guards and according to the narrator ‘When time is broken’ – presumably because everyone in Mexico is preoccupied with football.
Plot threads in each time period are loosely connected, as are some of the protagonists, brining to mind director Paul Haggis’ 2004 film Crash and Antoine Fuqua’s 2009 feature Brooklyn’s Finest.
Compounding these comparisons is the array of supporting characters, each with their own sub-plot. Audiences have to concentrate hard to remember who’s who and what’s happening in which era; especially as the action switches frequently between them.
Sometimes this works by cleverly playing with the audience’s expectations, most times it’s downright irritating.
Days of Grace has an outstanding cast who all give what seem like method performances. Principal among them are Tenoch Huerta as brutal but honest Police Officer Lupe Esparza; Kristyan Ferrer playing inexperienced kidnapper Doroteo and Carlos Bardem as kidnap victim Arturo.
Trouble is, too many characters muddy the script, diluting each other’s impact. It’s the same with the use of so many plot strands.
By far the biggest problem is the cinematography. Director/writer Everado Valerio Gout (there’s a name to conjure with!) is intent on cramming as many edgy camera techniques as possible into his movie. Tracking shots, panoramic shots, rapidly shifting focus, point of view shots, framing action partly off screen, concentrating on the foreground of the scene plus more are used relentlessly. I longed for some basic point and shoot. Unfortunately the overall effect was to annoy and distract from what was actually happening in the story.
Perhaps it’s just Gout getting over excited with his first feature and trying too much and too hard. His break in the industry came way back in 1996 when he was an assistant director on Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. He is undoubtedly talented; hopefully in his next feature he’ll realise less is sometimes more. I got the sense he was earnestly trying to put across a message with Days of Grace, sadly whatever it was got sunk on the reefs of his over-enthusiasm.
Writer/Director: Everado Valerio Gout
Cast: Tenoch Huerta, Kristyan Ferrer, Carlos Bardem, Dolores Heredia, Jose Sefami, Veronica Falcon and many others
Runtime: 133 mins