Boldly turning its back on the recent cinematic deluge of superhero malarkey, fantastical explosions and meaningless sentimental drivel, 'Any Day Now' echoes the gritty edifying dramas of the 1970s. Both intensely heartfelt and pointedly political, Travis Fine's militant tearjerker privileges an emotional response over the sensory, as the characters take center stage.
Loosely based on a true story, the film focusses on Rudy Donatello (Alan Cumming), a vamping drag queen earning a meagre living as a lip-syncher in a West Hollywood bar. Set against a late 1970s backdrop, the movie opens with Rudy mouthing the lyrics to France Joli's disco anthem 'Come To Me'. He soon attracts the attention of Paul Fleiger (Garret Dillahunt), a reserved closeted assistant district attorney. The pair strike up a whirlwind romance, as Rudy's infectious flamboyance and relentless free spirit swiftly draw the shy lawyer out of his shell.
Financially deprived, Rudy lives in a dismal apartment building down the hall from drug-addict prostitute Marianna Deleon (Jamie Anne Allman) and her Downs Syndrome-afflicted 14-year-old son Marco Isaac Leyva). Arrested and sent to jail on a drug possession charge, her son is left to the vagaries of the Family Services system. Acting on impulse, Rudy takes it upon himself to care for the abandoned teen. Both move in with Paul, and the unlikely trio of societal outsiders quickly come to form a loving family.
The couple's struggle to gain custody of the unwanted child soon consumes the plot of the film, as the new guardians are obliged to fight a legal system deeply marked with homophobic prejudice. Fine's unrelenting narrative is a ringing affirmation of right versus wrong, and makes a strong case for gay adoption rights. Harshly denouncing bureaucracy and bigotry, it condemns the system's failure to apply common sense, as well as its complete disregard for the child's best interest through a blind pursuit of the law.
While 'Any Day Now' could easily bask in the melodrama that plagues the many movies depicting custody battles - a cinematic staple of sorts - its powerful hold is exerted through its direct sensibility, and the subtlety and complexity of both the main and supporting characters. Thus, Rudy is an intensely outspoken ambassador for justice and gay rights, yet simultaneously deeply rooted in an underlying vulnerability. These many layers lend his character a soulfulness that defies stereotypes. Likewise, Paul is easily flustered by his partner's boldness, yet finds courage and strength at opportune moments. Marco, though silent throughout most of the film, manages to convey a lovable teen simply seeking his happy ending.
By no means lighthearted, Any Day Now portrays a stark dichotomy: negligent abusive mother / devoted caring gay couple. While the film's distant setting amidst big hair, bell bottoms and platform shoes comfortably alienates its audience from the societal issues explored, the story speaks a contemporary truth, as homophobia and bigotry echo loudly in courtrooms today. The characters' crusade is a resounding call for change.
'Any Day Now' is released in UK cinemas today, through Peccadillo Pictures.