"The 24th Day" is a low-budget psychological thriller that is intelligently written, excellently developed, extraordinarily well acted and a perfect example of a film that is able to accomplish tremendous cinematic presence that intrigues, excites and impresses.
Written and directed by first-time writer/director Tony Piccirillo, "24th Day" features surprising performances by its two male leads, James Marsden and Scott Speedman.
Neither actor has ever had a role such as this before, and both seem to relish the chance to show their true acting chops. Both are impressive here in what is, essentially, a two-man film largely shot in a small "apartment."
Piccirillo maximizes the use of the apartment, however, and does a beautiful job of building the psychological component to the film utilizing the space in the apartment.
"The 24th Day" started out as a play in Los Angeles starring Noah Wyle (of "ER" fame) and Peter Berg. The film has a definite theatrical feel to it, though it is not nearly as contained as some films of that nature. The script is intelligent, with subtle twists and turns that require listening and observation throughout the film.
The theme of the film is a mature one, and I'd not recommend it for those whose morals cannot allow for intelligent and dignified treatment of homosexuality and HIV/AIDS. The beauty of these characters is that neither is a horrible human being, though they both have definite character flaws. They are, in fact, "human" beings who have made "human" choices and "human" mistakes.
Accepting these roles is a bold move by both Speedman and Marsden...while neither has really been a box office success, it is still always refreshing to see known actors taking a chance and handling roles that defy stereotypes and challenge reputations. Speedman, in particular, really goes out on a limb here with this performance and ends up with quite the winning performance.
"The 24th Day" has generally solid production values, which is quite rare for a low-budget. There were a couple glitches I noticed that bothered me in a few spots. For example, in several flashback scenes the lighting is off-center and too bright in spots. Perhaps there was an impact being sought, but it ended up becoming a distraction. Additionally, during the early parts of the film there almost seemed to be an echo present...especially when background music was playing. It was a minor distraction, but one I still noticed.
Kudos to Kevin Manthei for the original music, Norman Dodge's production design, the make-up of Natalie Thimm and the costuming of Leonard Pollack. As previously stated, I was a bit challenged by Timothy Anderson's sound design.
"The 24th Day" is my kind of film. It is intelligent, character-driven drama that challenges a viewer with thoughts, feelings and images. It is one of the VERY few films to address the subjects of sexuality and HIV/AIDS in a dignified and respectful manner. Piccirillo has developed characters that it is impossible not to care about...through their challenges and flaws compassion grows. This unexpected gem is a reminder of what great little gems can be created on a small budget. Here's hoping this first film from Tony Piccirillo is not his last!