When my maternal grandfather was 84, he and my grandmother were taking a weekend trip to a hotel in upstate New York. Before he left, he casually told us, out of the blue, that he wanted to leave his car to me and his watch to his son, my uncle Norman. He died the next evening, in his sleep.
I was convinced Grandpa Sam unequivocally knew he was going to die that weekend.
When you first meet 91-year-old Walter Leland at the beginning of the new film, Day of Days, you suspect he’s up to something.
Walter awakens, bathes, shaves and picks out a suit, shirt, tie and shoes as if he’s getting ready to go to his job. But the mood is somber in his dreary, spare apartment, Venetian blinds drawn, and it’s obvious that Walter, stooped over and wan looking, hasn’t worked in years. It’s also plain that he lives alone. He laboriously scribbles in a notebook. He removes what looks like a war medal from a box he apparently hasn’t opened in decades.
Enter Marisol, who is replacing Walter’s regular home care aide for the day. Although petite and dark-haired Marisol assiduously tries to communicate with Walter, and replicate his usual companion’s comforting and familiar routine, he becomes increasingly agitated, eventually tossing over his lunch tray onto the living room floor.
Walter apologizes to Marisol when he awakens from his nap, and here’s where the story starts to unwind. We learn that Walter, a World War II veteran, has lived in near isolation since he retired 20 years before as a city bus driver. Divorced long-ago, Walter allowed his wife’s new husband to adopt his only son, Bobby, while he endlessly fantasized he’d become a big-time baseball player. Now, Walter has dreamed that God has called him home, that he will die this day of days, and he tells Marisol the regrets of his life as he attempts to make peace with it all. “I was a drunk and a dreamer, and a damn bad husband and father,” he tells Marisol. “All I had left was a bad case of feeling sorry for myself.”
His biggest regret is never mailing a letter he wrote to his estranged son 50 years ago.
Marisol is a Cuban refugee whose only child, Mateo, drowned during the wretched boat trip from Cuba to Florida. She has never accepted her son’s death, and has lived with the unbearable pain of loss and guilt, caring for others, and becoming estranged from God. “You can’t run away from your past, no matter how hard you try or how far you run,” Walter tells Marisol. “But don’t hold onto the past like there’s no tomorrow. Don’t be afraid of life.”
Walter and Marisol forge an unlikely, but powerful, connection. Together, they wage a tender, tough and moving battle over life, acceptance, forgiveness and death. “I never made a dime’s difference in anyone’s life,” Walter tells Marisol. “It’s in your heart to do that,” he says. “You made a difference in this old man’s life on his last day.”
Day of Days was directed and written by brothers Kim and Kyle Bass, and is based on the true story of their 102-year-old paternal grandfather, who had summoned his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to his nursing home room to announce his impending death. He was flirting with nurses, making requests for favorite foods and holding court with visitors. No one believed him, said his grandsons. Once the family left, he died that instant.
The emotional and demanding film stars Tom Skerritt and Peruvian actress and Hollywood newcomer Claudia Zevallos. It was filmed on a soundstage with a single set and has the power and intimacy of a Broadway play. The stars received best actor awards for their tours de force at the 11th annual Women’s International Film & Arts Festival held in Miami, FL, last fall.
Bass Entertainment Pictures is an independent motion picture production company that develops and produces independent feature films for theatrical and home entertainment release.