FEATURE FILM REVIEW
With help from a seasoned therapist, a young man explores his past, present, and future.
THERE WAS A TIME when people wanted to be anything but normal. "Be yourself, be different." was what everything was about, and slowly but surely, people have been letting go of that ideal and wanting to be more like everybody else. Maybe I'm exaggerating a little, the "Be yourself, don't label me." movement seems to be on a slight uptick lately but mostly, people want to do anything but stick out. They want to fit in and be normal; Jake (Justin Duncan) is tired of being not only different, but invisible. He's tired of being the last one picked for the team, the one voted most unlikely to succeed. So, with the help of a therapist, Sean (Eric Hanson) he starts his journey towards normality. Whatever that is.
IT SOUNDS SUSPICIOUSLY LIKE NEON DAYS IS A TEEN ROMANCE FILM, BUT IT ISN'T
Jake works at "InterSkate" and manages to hide his mental state from his coworkers. They think he's a little weird but in good company. His boss seems to enjoy giving Jake the worst jobs; especially handing out mascot duty in an attempt to embarrass whoever happens to be on his bad side. After meeting the other strange employees, a new hire enters the scene. Sherry (Meagan Harris) is everything Jake wants in a woman; and one of his peers gives up the chance to give her a private tour, so Jake can do it himself. It sounds suspiciously like Neon Days is a teen romance film, but it isn't, not really. Jake's love life does have its place in the movie, but it's not at the forefront of this story. This is a film about Jake, a young man looking for answers or more importantly, looking for solutions. We can only hope that Sean is up to the task.
I CAN SAY THAT ONCE YOU GET IT, YOU GET IT
There are some really great moments in this movie. A scene involving not Jake, but his therapist in a bar discussing with his family their own problems, was a powerful segment for me. But my favorite has to be when Jake finally solves the Rubik's Cube and quits his job. That scene alone tied up Neon Days in a way that made perfect sense, but it wasn't on a golden trail this film got to that point. Neon Days can be confusing, especially until that moment when everything clicks in and you realize exactly what you're watching. The path from start to finish could have been handled a little differently, a little more straight forward. I can appreciate the way Sheldon Maddux wrote this film the way he did; but that doesn't make it any easier to follow. I can say, that once you get it, you get it and that this movie is helped greatly by some talented actors and actresses; the way Sheldon Maddux directs them is also pleasantly apparent. A natural.
NEON DAYS IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT, AND OFFERS NO APOLOGIES FOR BEING THAT WAY
Neon Days is a slower, but steady look at the effects of loneliness on a person. It's about finding yourself when the world seems not to care. In this case, the ending is a happier, more hopeful one but Neon Days could have opted to go a different way, and nobody would have been any wiser. I'm glad it didn't, but that possibility is what makes this film so endearing. The little diversions from the more serious tone of this film also felt a little uneven, but they also worked as metaphors for Jake's feelings and thoughts on his existence overall. Like the character of Jake himself, Neon Days is a little different and offers no apologies for being that way. Those differences make this film all the more appealing, and ultimately allow the audience to forgive some of the more confusing elements. Three stars.
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