Daybreak (Gentian Koci, 2017): Albania

Reviewed by Savasia J. Vida at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, 2018.

As a single mother struggling to make ends meet, Violeta tries to do everything she can for her son but can’t seem to get a break. When she gets kicked out of her apartment for not paying rent, she is forced to sleep where she works as a caretaker for an older woman, Sophie, in her apartment. The relationship between Sophie and Violeta remain positive as Sophie implicitly understands Violeta’s hardships but gets quickly challenged when Sophie’s daughter, Ariana, dies in a car crash in France. As Ariana was the source of Violeta’s caretaker checks, she has to immediately find ways to get money for her and her son.

The lack of music throughout the film serves as a powerful tool to underline the serious tone of each scene. Similar to the cinematography elements in The Order of Things, Daybreak includes one shot takes, minimal camera angles and medium shots of the characters that sensationalizes the scenes and adds a sense of social realism. In addition, the lighting and mise-en-scene are both very natural settings with the repeated use of particles to illuminate each scene. Both the editing and cinematography places us in a very intimate situation as we see Violeta’s life quickly unfold.

Throughout the film, Genetian Koci prides in the ambiguity within the characters; for example, the initial dialogue between Ariana and Violeta does not reveal their relationship in depth as it made me confused on she relates to the story. Other characters are introduced very briefly but their significance to the plot is revealed scenes later. However, this technique kept me entertained as the prevalence of silence in almost every film was more powerful that what was actually said between the characters.

In Daybreak, Violeta can never get a break which influences her final decision to save her small family. The theme of this film definitely underlines the notion that people are willing to do anything to keep their family intact and be financially stable.

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