One of the reasons I fell in love with Manchester and eventually moved here was the simple fact that they have an independent cinema. Foreign cinema has always been one of my obsessions but it was this special little place that introduced me properly to Queer Cinema. One of the most memorable films I came across since then is the utterly heart-breaking Any Day Now.
Through a number of fortunate coincidences actor and writer Travis Fine got his hands on a screenplay called Any Day Now which was written in 1980 by George Arthur Bloom, who was inspired by true events to write this script. Fine decided to direct this beautiful script after he did some rewriting, he was able to gather a stunning cast and finally released the completed film in 2012. Any Day Now stars the incredible Alan Cumming as Rudy Donatello, the equally brilliant Garret Dillahunt as Paul Fliger and the amazingly talented Isaac Levya as Marco.
The beginning of the film shows a young boy with Down Syndrome walking down barely lit streets by himself, hugging his doll. Little do we know at this point that those shots will have a significant meaning at the end of the film. It’s West Hollywood in 1979 when the next scene shows Paul sitting in his car in front of a bar, debating whether or not to go in. When he does, he spots Rudy performing on stage as part of a female-impersonation act. They eventually end up in Paul’s car where they get caught by a police man. Paul reveals he’s a lawyer at the D.A.’s office which scares the police officer off. At that point Rudy and Paul introduce each other with their names for the first time.
When Rudy gets home he finds a doll in the hall. Knowing that it belongs to the little boy in the apartment next to his, he knocks on the door. There’s loud music coming from the apartment before a woman finally opens the door. She insults Rudy and calls him names but takes the doll. Soon after, Rudy sees her going out with a man, leaving her little boy behind.
The next day Rudy finds the boy, Marco, all by himself in the apartment. He’s taken a liking to him and decides to ask Paul for help. After failing to get through to him on the phone Rudy takes Marco to his office, only to be denied the help he asks for. Marco then gets taken away by family services when they return to the apartment, but runs away from the foster home the same night he gets there. Meanwhile Paul shows up at the bar again where Rudy sings “Get out of my life and let me live again” directly to him, obviously angry with him, but Paul apologises for his behaviour at his office. They have a drink at the bar where it becomes clear that Rudy realises for the first time that Paul is still in the closet. When Paul is driving Rudy home they see Marco wandering down the streets by himself. They pick him up and take him home.
The scene with Rudy and Paul sitting at the bar talking is the first time where I noticed the undeniable chemistry between Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt. They are not just brilliant actors but the way they so elegantly interact with each other almost makes me jealous. We see this again later when they have dinner with Marco at Paul’s place. They just get each other, them being together and caring for Marco seems so flawless, so pure. It just fits.
After said dinner Paul notices that Rudy wants to keep Marco to which he replies “Marco didn’t ask to be different. He didn’t ask to be born different. He asked for none of this.” The way Rudy speaks about Marco here makes me shiver every time. We can just feel how he might be taking about Marco but deep down he is also speaking for himself. We can feel his desperate need to belong somewhere which he never openly admits to but through his determination to care for Marco, it’s easy to see that Rudy just wants to make him feel like he was never allowed to – loved and accepted.
Rudy and Paul later convince Marianna, Marco’s mum, to sign over temporary custody to Rudy but the only way for a judge to grant him custody is by him and Marco living with Paul. At court, Paul tells Judge Meyerson (played by the fantastic Frances Fisher) that Rudy is his cousin in an attempt to hide the true nature of their relationship. In the end Rudy is granted custody for the time of Marianna being in prison. Rudy and Marco do move in with Paul, they take him to school, they feed him, put clothes on his back and tell him bedtime stories every night. The film flashes forward with what appears to be a home video showing the three of them celebrating Halloween, Christmas and Marco’s birthday.
At a party Paul’s boss D.A. Wilson (Chris Mulkey) realises that Paul is gay. He informs the judge and Marco is taken away by family services again. Because he lied at court, Rudy gets arrested but is soon released. He gets in a fight with Paul where Rudy ends up yelling at him and saying “You don’t have to live a lie anymore” and “Here is your chance to kick open that closet door and do some of that world changing.” It is so obvious how much Rudy cares for Marco when he calls him their son. This scene just perfectly shows that family is not a question of whether or not someone is blood related. Anyone can be your family if you want them to be.
Rudy and Paul fight at court to get Marco back, eventually filing for permanent custody but the motion gets dismissed when it is revealed that the D.A.’s office made a deal with Marianna to get her paroled early if she agrees to reinstate her custodial rights. Marianna also asks for a restraining order on Marco’s behalf. The world seems to crumble around Paul and Rudy after they lose Marco for good.
The film ends with the inevitable. Back at Marianna’s flat she is taking drugs again and the man she is with asks Marco to step outside in the hall while they have sex. Marco wanders off and eventually gets lost. A voice-over from Paul showing the judges, Lambert (the lawyer that filed to dismiss Rudy and Paul’s motion for permanent custody of Marco) and D.A. Wilson reading letters he wrote to them, tells the story of what happened to Marco in the end. He got lost in the streets of Los Angeles and died under a bridge all by himself after three days. Paul includes Marco’s obituary that does not tell anything about Marco as a person which is why he tells everyone about him and the things he loved, concluding with “Marco loved a happy ending.”
The very last shots of Marco walking in the streets at night, brings the film to a close, mirroring the shots from the beginning of the film. Seeing the little boy again so innocent and lost, leaves a bitter-sweet taste as Marco certainly didn’t get his own happy ending.
Any Day Now is a brutally honest film that made me question my faith in humanity more than once. I’m probably way too young to really be able to understand what kind of prejudice and hate people from the LGBT community were forced to deal with back in the late 70s. However, in the end Any Day Now is about so much more than just a gay couple. It is simply a film about love and acceptance, something we all crave every day of our lives. We all just want to be accepted and loved for who we are as a person. It’s not specifically about being gay or ill because the longing for acceptance lives in all of us. Rudy and Paul’s sexuality, and Marco’s illness are just examples of how this acceptance can be even more difficult to get when you’re “different”. When a young life is gambled with because we are not granted that acceptance by others, especially the legal system, it just makes us wonder if the government really does have our best interest at heart. They are supposed to protect us and not dehumanise us because of something we simply born with.
If Any Day Now taught me anything, then it is that I should be glad to be in my mid-twenties now, and not 40 years ago. LGBT and disabled people in today’s world are still judged, ridiculed and discriminated against every single day just because of who they love, how they look or simply because of who they are. As Paul directly and passionately points out the second time he is at court with Rudy, it is not about being gay or straight, it is about Marco, a physically and mentally disabled child that no one wants except him and Rudy, because they truly love and accept him for who he is. It’s one simple question we need to ask ourselves: What is more important – a child’s well-being or our own narrow-minded views formed by society? I definitely know how I would answer that question.