By Guru Ramanathan, Contributing Writer
Everyone dreams of a life beyond what they know. They fight for that dream and it is through their persistence and ambition that they are able to succeed. Filmmaker Pascal Plisson sets his documentary “The Great Day (Le Grand Jour)” across the world and follows four underprivileged kids each going on different paths to overcome academic, physical and socioeconomic struggles towards a brighter future.
Albert (11) is a young boxer in Cuba, training to get into the Havana Boxing Academy; Nidhi (16) is a prospective engineering student in India studying to place into the selective Super 30 program as a way of getting into a good engineering university; Tom (19) prepares to become a park ranger in Uganda; and finally in Mongolia, Deegi (11) is a young girl training extensively to become a professional contortionist.
Plisson’s directorial approach is interesting, but it ultimately creates more drawbacks than it does originality. He gives “The Great Day” a very cinematic feel and there are times when he subverts the idea of an ordinary documentary, allowing the kids to feel like fictional characters. Each of their respective stories could certainly become a movie of its own. However, as unique as his style may be, the film ends up feeling feigned rather than sympathetic. What should be extremely emotional moments between the kids and their families, teachers or friends are obviously staged. Treating the kids like characters in a narrative disengages the viewer from the hardships they have to face. Yet, Plisson even betrays his own style towards the end by using interviews with the parents/teachers of the kids, at a moment too late to save the film.
Plisson clearly has a favorite amongst the kids — Albert. The director thoroughly delves into many aspects of his life: Albert has just been allowed to return to boxing after his grades have improved, his best friend Roberto is humorous and is the self-proclaimed best coach in Havana and Albert’s parents are apparently separated, adding to the dramatic element. On the other hand, Plisson barely scratches the surface with either Tom and Nidhi’s family life or friends. The two are cheated in terms of how their stories were concluded. Deegi had the most physically straining goal, a very strict teacher and the most unpredictable storyline — perhaps the most dramatic arc of all the kids, but needed to have been developed further for the payoff in the end.
Although the film falters on a narrative level, Plisson is greatly aided by the film’s wondrous cinematography, which captures the diverse and minute details of the various geographic landscapes. Krishna Levy’s score is also fantastic and the composer seamlessly weaves in the different tones and themes created for each of the kids. Although the film has strong technical elements, Plisson’s inauthentic storytelling methods ultimately leave “The Great Day” feeling fabricated and imbalanced. He desperately grasps for heartstrings, but does not earn a genuine pathos.
“The Great Day” released on VOD on Tuesday, Oct. 10.