THE 24TH DAY is quite simply one of the finest achievements in American film making in the past year. Based on his play of the same name, writer and director Tony Piccirillo establishes his credentials as one of our more potent and important talents with the release of this exceptional 'first feature'. Not only is the script one of the best pieces of writing around, the acting of here-to-for underused pretty boys James Marsden and Scott Speedman is of the quality for which awards were invented.
After opening credits (which only in retrospect tell the entire story in beautifully executed photography), the story begins in a singles bar and moves slowly to the musty, dark, cluttered apartment of Tom (Scott Speedman from 'Underworld', 'Duets', etc) where it becomes clear that his 'guest' Dan (James Marsden of 'The Notebook' and the 'X Men' series - a 31 year old actor who lost out on the lead role in 'Primal Fear' to Edward Norton!) has been cruising Tom with the intention of a sexual tryst for the evening. With graceful, subtle dialogue we are seduced into the verbal foreplay of the apparent tryst until BANG! - Tom informs Dan that they had an evening of sex five years ago (Dan was drunk and doesn't remember) and since that has been Tom's only gay sexual liaison: Tom has been stalking Dan in revenge for his transmitting HIV to Tom, a transmission which has resulted in Tom's wife falling victim to AIDS and dying in a car crash 24 days ago!
Tom therefore becomes the captor and Dan the captive in this two-person drama. Dan is tied and gagged and Tom withdraws a syringe of Dan's blood, which he then takes to have tested for HIV. If Dan is HIV positive, Tom will kill him: if Dan is negative he will be free to go. The entire story takes place in this grungy apartment as a dialogue between Tom the avenger and Dan the victim who declares his seronegativity and opens the multipronged discussion of such topics as truth ('THE truth or YOUR truth" they each spar), AIDS, gay vs. bisexual vs. straight, sex without love or commitment, etc.
The relationship between captor and captive goes through many permutations, each more startling and frightening than the last until the story reaches its almost unbearably surprise climax. In the end the audience is left to resolve the final issues presented - a trait of a truly fine playwright. The messages and the impact of this movie are some of the more powerful on film.
We can only hope to see much more of the gifted Tony Piccirillo's work, both as a brilliant writer and as a tautly sensitive director. The real surprise (in a film full of professional surprises) is the caliber of acting from James Marsden and Scott Speedman. The are both startlingly fine: each actor creates his character so fully that our identification with each man's plight plays like a ping pong game with every soliloquy. There is an underlying animal sexual attraction between the two, even as the initial ploy of an evening of anonymous sex turns bitterly sour, and this interplay makes the story's end all the more poignant. These two fine actors each deliver the quality of performance that deserves Oscar attention.
Without reservation this film is high on the list of the finest 'indie movies' (read very low budget) of the year. Everyone who admires the art of cinema should see, no - buy!, this film. Grady Harp, October 2004
The 24th day is essentially a play produced for the screen. That, to me, is a good thing. It makes certain that the playwright's dialogue is maintained and that the focus stays on that dialogue. This was used effectively with "The Boys in the Band," "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean," and several others.
As a community, homosexuals have had their fair share of plays and films that have ranted and raved against the government inaction on AIDS (The Normal Heart; And the Band Played On), awareness raising of self-imposed discrimination against those with AIDS (Jeffrey; Longtme Companion) and general "aint we got it bad" plays (Love, Valour, Compassion; Parting Glances). Not all of these have been great, but they have been intriguing and thought provoking - just what was necessary. Unfortunately, as we've grown accustomed to the reality of AIDS in our lives, we've also become desensitized to the reality of it. There is an entire generation out there that has never known a world without AIDS and safe sex as a mantra. There is a contingent present that chooses to ignore the realities of the disease and its indescriminate behavior. They are the men (and women) that The 24th Day addresses. True it only speaks directly about gay men and "straight" men who stray, but it is the first real play/film to take this attitude to task.
Dan (James Marsden) is a hot film producer out for an evening of fun with his best "girl" friend at (what ostensibly appears to be) a straight bar. However, he manages to get picked up by (or pick up) Tom (Scott Speedman). They retire to Tom's apartment. There Dan discovers that Tom has been stalking him because he believes that Dan gave him AIDS five years previous on his once and only time sleeping with a man.
Since this much is told on the DVD cover, I've not given anything away. In fact, more could be said without giving away the whole plot, simply because this is less a film about action and plot than it is a character study about sexual responsiblity.
The acting is very good and the set is effective (it is basically a single set for the entire film - remember it is a play to film). If I had any gripes it would be that the play and the film tend to get redundant in the dialogue about halfway through. There seems to be more antagonistic behavior and less actual character development (especially of Dan) than I would like to see. That said, it is important to remember that I think the playwrite was intending that this play be about "everyman" and thus didn't want to bog the play down with heavy details about individuals and take the emphasis off the intended audience. I think this is bold, but ultimately speaks a bit down to the audience, assuming that they wouldn't be able to glean the information from the essence of the material - which is strong.
The DVD is very light on extras, but then this isn't a film you watch for the extras.
I think you'll enjoy this film.
on September 5, 2005
Scott Speedman and James Marsden both do exceptional acting in this emotionally intense film. In this review I want to discuss three aspects of the film.
First, the actors and the complicated situation these two men find themselves in carries this film. There are no fireworks special effects. In fact the film feels like a stage play due to the intensity of the dialogue between these two men, one of whom, Tom the chef, has imprisoned the other, Dan the gay successful pretty boy, and will kill him if it appears that he infected Tom during Tom's one and only one-night-stand with another man. Beautiful James Marsden does a terrific job but Scott Speedman needs a nomination for best supporting actor, he is really good. The play between captive and captor is a dangerous game, as these two men discover.
Second, the film did an excellent job of weaving in the intracacies and uncertainties of HIV infection and antibody testing into the plot. Tom thinks Dan infected him 5 years ago during intercourse because a couple of years later, Tom's wife develops AIDS related symptoms, finds she is HIV positive, and then dies by running a red light after finding her HIV status. Tom imprisons Dan, takes a sample of his blood by force, and sends it to a lab with the intention of killing Dan if it comes back positive since Tom interprets this as proof that Dan infected him. Dan, struggling for his life, reasons with Tom that Tom's wife could have been infected before Tom and that since she showed AIDS symptoms so early, she may have been infected for some time. Thus Dan tries to raise doubts in Tom's mind that Tom did not infect his wife, it was the other way around. Anyone familiar with HIV/AIDS knows that this is a valid argument.
Third, the story showed character development and change. Tom is extremely angry at first and seeks careful deadly revenge against Dan. Then Dan rightfully inserts doubt into Tom's mind as to who infected who in the relationship between Tom and his wife. Then the results come back with Dan's HIV status. At this point the film takes some plot twists which I don't think I should reveal, however I will say that at some point Tom moves out of anger and revenge and into compassion. Compassion is an amazing emotion, healing to those who experience it directly or indirectly. This recognition of the role of compassion in our lives is the reason I gave this exceptional film a "5".
Very well done.
on March 14, 2006
Director, P.J. Castellaneta, did close to the same thing (minus the death threats) 13 years earlier in his 1991 release, "Together Alone." Here's how the two films line up:
----2 hunky guys (one married / one not---in both "24th" and "TA"),
----A night of lovemaking (remembered+talked about in "24th" / actually in bed in "TA"),
----AIDS as a factor (does he have it / does he not---in both films),
----A night of philosophizing (what if this / what if not this---in both films).
Apparently 1991's "Together Alone" garnered even lesser acclaim than did "24th" (but Castellaneta did go on 7 years later to make a somewhat more successful 'number' you've probably heard of titled, "Relax......It's Just Sex"). Actually, "TA" has never made it to DVD's ranks from its original VHS video release (and even that is shown by Amazon to be available only as used and, then, in a mere 4 copies)(Wolfe Video, it's original releaser, states it's no longer available from them).
Scott Speedman? While still somewhat newer and 'a-learning' as an actor, it takes only moments to see the shock waves of guilt, sorrow, and anger this man throws off in his role as Tom. Wow!
James Marsden? Dear gods, don't be jealous........for this man is so beautiful. (Just an aside: at times I find it almost difficult to look at him. While everyone's perception of beauty differs, to me this man is just plain arresting---watching him here and in "Heights" is almost too much). Nonetheless, his physical attributes are far surpassed by a freshness and depth of feeling, rare in such a young performer, which he brings to his dramatic roles, that of Dan being no exception.
Since I can add nothing more concerning performances and plot points than is contained in the several quite good 4- and 5-Star reviews already here, I will mention only one character detail: Tom is, at his most basic and essential, a good and honest human being. That is never lost sight of in this film, and, I think, is meant to clue us in on the real way in which the film is intended to end.
on November 2, 2004
As an above average comsumer of gay films I must say that this movie is one of the best that I have seen. Why? Because it doesn't rely on the tired formula of most gay movies. No coming out struggles, no 'people hate me' attitudes--just a strong story about a married man who gave in to his sexual cravings 5 years ago with another man.
The story isn't about HIV or AIDS, its about responsibility and accountability. This is also a movie that has a surprise ending, so I can't relay too much of the story. Did he become infected from a same-sex one-night stand? Did his wife bring the disease home from her own infedelity? Watch and find out.
on January 3, 2007
What would you do if something you did five years ago cost you everything you have by calling into question everything you are?
This question isn't only asked but answered by Tom (Scott Speedman), on the 24th day of a revelation that cost him the life he was so desperately trying to build. Five years ago Tom had a one night stand with Dan (James Marsden). It was an urge that had been building up inside of him for years that he quelled, until that night. It was the first and only time he'd ever been unfaithful to his wife. But that one indiscretion began a ripple effect that touched and eventually destroyed every other aspect of his life.
After their one night together Tom goes on with his life as if nothing happened. He made a choice that night -- to love his wife, and in so doing he completely submerged this other part of himself. The part that was/is attracted to men. Until, in the most horrible way imaginable Tom's wife discovers the truth about her husband and their life together.
Tom is HIV positive. And in his mind he could have only contracted it one way - Dan. So Tom "accidentally" runs into Dan at a bar. Dan doesn't recognize him and they go back to Tom's place. Dan thinks he's there for sex, but Tom has other plans. Tom knocks Dan out and ties him to a chair then forcibly extracts blood from him in order to get it tested.
For a lot of people that would be the end of movie, but this movie delves deeper. Because while Tom is angry and wants his revenge, we are also shown that he is still very much attracted to Dan, and that even tied up and held prisoner Dan is attracted to Tom. And it's in the duality of the situation they find themselves in that is the crux of the film. It's a two man passion play that isn't afraid to touch on those things we'd rather not think about in the cool dispassionate light of day. Things like, love, betrayal, denial and the hardest of all acceptance. In the end its about what you're responsible for and what you're willing to take responsibility for. And ultimately can you live with that.
on December 1, 2006
This movie looked like it wanted to be searing drama, but just didn't really rise to the occasion. It's primary message seemed to be "if you have unsafe sex you will get aids" with the corollary "if you have aids the gay person you slept with just once is the one who gave it to you". A public service announcement about safe sex is laudable, but not a movie. The corollary is a little insulting. There were other things implied too in their dialog: if you're a guy and slept with one guy you are secretly really gay and are probably sleeping with a lot of guys; and if you go to bars to meet people you're a slut. All those unpleasant implications aside, the movie just never offered any sparks or emotional resonance between the two characters. It was also kind of hard to believe, particularly the captive who seemed to largely just sit quietly through it all. At one point the captor goes to a bar and gets drunk with a woman (to prove he's not a slut I guess) and the captive is yanking on the arm of the ratty old sofa he's handcuffed to , and it looked like the actor had to work pretty hard to make sure he didn't actually snap the arm off and get free. They also spent a fair amount of time talking about Charlie's Angels (the TV show). Were these guys even old enough to have seen it? I like the actors in general, but the movie was preachy, implausible, and dull.
on November 6, 2005
This is another film I purchased without knowing a thing about it, and wound up being quite glad I did. The premise of this film had me on the edge of my seat from the very first gut-wrenching conflict, in a film that was filled to the brim with gut-wrenching conflicts. The acting of both principals in this essentially two-character piece was first rate, and helped to elevate it high above most standard gay-themed fare. But what really made this picture superior to 90% of the gay titles I've purchased in the past year was the confrontation of real issues that gay men should be discussing, but frequently shy away from. Without giving away the plot, let me say that almost every minute of the taught, carefully crafted script is imbued with thoughtful discussion on issues that are all to frequently ignored by sexually active gay men. I didn't see the ending coming at all, and the ultimate, positive and healthy message - that everyone is responsible for their own conduct, and the consequences thereof - is one that too many people don't seem to get, in my observation. In a world where the madness of barebacking and substance abuse is decimating the gay urban male population, the lesson of this film is one that every gay man needs to consider, if not embrace wholeheartedly. Good god! A gay drama that dares to address and discuss sexual responsibility in an adult manner! What will they think of next?
on May 12, 2006
Wow - this is an intense film! Overall, an excellent film, well acted, well directed and emotionally charged.
The storyline is quite straight-forward: 2 guys Tom (Speedman) and Dan (Marsden) who had an sexual encounter 5 years earlier meet again - unbeknowsnt to one of them. Watch the first 25 minutes carefully - you'll find it hard not to.
The film centers around Toms discovery that he is HIV positive, and is certain Dan gave him the disease. Unlike many gay-themed film of recent years, this one pulls all the punches. It puts the topic of sex, unsafe sex, multiple partners, trust and honesty all on the table, no holds barred.
On a personal level, if you are not in a relationship, this film will certainly challenge your own ability to ever believe anyone again.
I liked this film because it dealt with a topic our society seems to be struggling with again - people having unsafe sex, and being afraid of getting tested for HIV.
In addition, it is an erotic thriller, full of suspense, unexpected turns and twists, and emotion. It was near impossible to guess the next scene, and the ending is true to the storyline and directing.
What I didn't like: there is one scene where the directing appears to have come from some "Halloween" thriller type movie. It takes away from the appeal to that point. The film does recover, but some viewers may find the middle of the film at times slow.
Overall, this is an excellent movie, filmed on location in Philadelphia. I discovered it through an Amazon.com "you might also like" link. I am glad I did. The DVD movie runs about 95 minutes, and there are virtually no extras, with the exception of a TV/filmography for the 2 actors, and Spanish subtitles.
on June 22, 2005
Got the movie yesterday from Amazon.com and immediately popped it in and watched it. I found the acting to be very believable, almost the entire movie is shot in one location and the actors were very adept in their craft. It puts a realistic perspective on the potential consequences of anonymous sex and the sometimes all to familiar lack of responsibility for one's own actions. I watched this movie twice back to back and found it just as intense both times. I would definitely recommend this film, if for nothing else than to hopefully get people to stop and think a little before heading out for that next "casual fling".