The Shine of Day: Film Review

"Shine of the Day"
Although a bit too low-key for its own good, this sensitive character study benefits from the marvelously lived-in performances by its two leads

Rainer Frimmel and Tizza Covi's drama concerns the budding relationship between a theater actor and his long-lost uncle.

Fiction and reality are intertwined in the latest narrative effort from documentary filmmakers Rainer Frimmel and Tizza Covi (La Pivellina). Featuring veteran Austrian theater actor Philipp Hochmair and former circus performer Walter Saabel playing loosely fictionalized versions of themselves, The Shine of Day sporadically registers with beautifully observed moments even while suffering from its lack of a compelling narrative. The film is receiving its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York City’s Anthology Film Archives.

Philipp is a successful Austrian theater actor currently starring in a production of Buchner’s Woyzeck. One day he’s visited out of the blue by the elderly Walter, a long-lost uncle that he’s never met. Although reluctant to disrupt his busy schedule and his well-honed isolation, Philipp allows this stranger to enter his life.

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Although a plot of sorts is introduced with Philipp’s becoming determined to help his next-door neighbor’s wife -- an immigrant trapped in Moldova -- return to Vienna, the observational film largely consists of low-key scenes in which the central characters gradually warm up to each other. Along the way, they also spend time separately, with Philipp attending to his art and Walter wandering around the neighborhood and regaling the neighbor’s children with tales of how he used to wrestle bears.  

Although the film’s languorous pacing induces some restlessness, its portrait of two isolated figures learning to emotionally connect with each other eventually exerts a pull. Eschewing the sort of conventional melodramatic family dynamics that might normally be expected, the filmmakers instead deliver a breezily anecdotal if opaque character study that benefits enormously from the beautifully lived-in performances by the two leads. Their interactions -- marked by naturalistic dialogue that has a wholly spontaneous feel -- sensitively convey the sort of male friendship that is too rarely depicted onscreen.

Opens: July 12

Production: Vento Film

Cast: Philipp Hochmair, Walter Saabel, Vitali Leoniti

Directors: Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel

Screenwriters: Xaver Bayer, Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel

Producer-director of photography: Rainer Frimmel

Editors: Tizza Covi, Emily Artmann

Not rated, 90 min.