An expecting couple, Daniel and Irene, are driving through the countryside on their way to attend the wedding of a family member. Along the way the two stop and get directions from a hitchhiker and reluctantly give the man, Renny, a lift. Holding Irene at knife point, Renny forces Daniel to pick up Leo and the two men take the couple to an abandoned home. Using his family's wealth, Daniel manages to negotiate a possible release when a third captor takes him to get the money, leaving Irene alone with Renny and Leo.
I first came across David Barker's film "Daylight" at the RxSM Film Expo sometime back but, regretfully, I only recently got around to watching the movie. The quiet -- maybe too quiet -- indie film features a rather typical scenario of crime dramas and might be the reason why the film went mostly unnoticed and floated from the festival circuit, to the home video market and eventually onto the streaming service of Netflix. Beneath the genre staples and low-key style lies a surprisingly haunting psychological character piece where a kidnapping leads to self-realizations.
Daniel and his pregnant wife Irene head out of town to attend a family member's wedding in the countryside. Unfortunately the two end up getting lost and when they stop to ask a hitchhiker for directions, they soon find themselves being taken hostage by the knife-wielding Renny and his friend Leo. The two men take the couple to a supposedly abandoned home where Daniel makes a deal to spare his life and hopefully save his wife, by taking the duo's third partner to Irene's father to pay for their safe release. Now left in the hands of Renny and Leo, Irene does everything she can survive until her husband's hopeful return.
"Daylight" features the typical scenario and scenes used in the many movies that feature similar setups -- the person being held captive begging for release, tense filled attempts at escapel, the building of distrust amongst the antagonists, etc. -- but the movie doesn't focus its direction on satisfying that traditional storyline. Daylight" chooses to focus on the silence between the tension; it isn't about Irene's survival of the situation but how her presence affects the two criminals who have to constantly remind themselves how they need to get back on track.
With Irene being pregnant and both Renny and Leo being men who are willingly ready to kill someone at a moment's notice, it isn't surprising that the movie's themes revolve around birth and death. Yet these things are what causes the biggest distress of these collected characters and what pushes "Daylight" out of the commonality of its genre and into an interesting character study. Because the movie's focus isn't on the action of escaping, it delves into an uncomfortable slow burn (something that will turn off most viewers -- as you can see on places such as IMDb) that creates just as much, if not more, tension simply because you don't know where the story is going to go.
Irene represents everything that Renny and Leo hate about the world and what pushed them into the lives that they currently live, but something about her, something about the motherhood she presents, changes their focus. Even causing the camaraderie, or rather, the brother-like bond the two share, to disintegrate. And Irene herself finds her own values and her own beliefs begin to shift. The problems that burdened her in the beginning -- the questioning of her relationship with her husband -- no longer seems relevant while she tries to find peace by turning to a faith that she never truly believed in before. It's what makes "Daylight" work because there is genuine development of these characters and a natural progression that flows. It's slow and subtle but the interest remains because the characters and the situation feels believable because of how the material is approached and delivered.
It may not seem like "Daylight" offers much but there are some interesting concepts explored and how the movie was executed is what allows it to succeed. The entire movie's atmosphere is a rather quiet and subdued but the tension beneath the surface that comes to a boil at the end is as effective, if not more so, than the typical fight for survival that these crime-dramas are indicative to. The film also carries an interesting style, visually, as well. Like the atmosphere, it remains rather calm and casual, but there are moments where there is a kind of a poetic beauty to it. It's hard for me to describe but there are scenes where, like most arthouse movies, the visuals say more about the story and characters than an exposition could. Though, that's not to sell the performances short as the actors in the movie are quite good and help make the characters, and the story, work very well.