Cannes review: When Night Meets Dawn (2021)

Photo by Laurențiu Răducanu

When the heavy summer heat reaches an anonymous suburb of Bucharest, it splits younger from older generations. Outside of the social housing complex from the late 1970’s with peeling facades and corroded balconies, there is no visible signs of life. Parents are probably planted in front of their TVs, cooling themselves off inside the air-conditioned apartments or, if less lucky, with their bodies turned to the electric fans, while the youth – idling during the summer holidays, are seeking each other’s company outdoors, close to the lake.

One boy doesn’t fit this pattern. He is planlessly hanging around the concrete jungle, deepened in his own thoughts and obviously troubled about not being able to reach his friend Viju.

Inspired by a brief scene of shared intimacy between two boys that she accidentally witnessed during one of her jogging routines, the Romanian screnwriter/ director Andreea Cristina Borțun seeked to explore the effect that this particular image had on her normative perception* (director’s statement). Her approach is curious and gentle, done with attention to burgeoning sexuality, not becoming explicite even for a moment. The accent is on the emotional state of a young person who is just becoming aware of his erotic desires.

It’s little details that point out at what is going on in his soul, visualy strong and well constructed: his sensual play with a fig, or later on with a watermelon, are some of them. The fruit is devoured with pleasure after being carefully examined, hands and lips in focus. The camera lens zooms on him from all angles and his face is the only one we get to see in the film. The rest of the youngsters that he will eventually join are a collection of limbs, jaws and talking mouths.

The narrative is built on the close to the bone representation of youngsters’ leisure time which is a fitting coulisse for a coming-of-age drama. Conversations between different groups of teens discussing their private matters join in a choire of dissonant whispers, projecting their fears and desires.

What digs out all things unspoken is the call of the nature with sounds of frogs, birds and other fauna inhabiting the area, including the ones coming from the pidgeons in the housing’s dovecote. Their hectic fluttering of wings and cooing, reminds us of the pain that people trapped in their physically- or mentally conditoned cages experience on the almost same level. One could easily break out, but what comes out of it?

When Night Meets Down is one of the most profound films made about the sexual awakening shot in recent years. With its world premiere in Cannes’ Quinzaine des Réalisateurs Official Selection, this fascinatingly well accomplished drama has a bright future coming its way.

Original Title: Quand la Nuit rencontre l’Aube
Country of Production: Romania
Year of Production: 2021
Language: Romanian
Runtime: 19’ 19’’
Written/ Directed by: Andreea Cristina Borțun
Produced by: Gabi Suciu, Andreea Cristina Borțun
Executive Producer: Gabi Suciu
Director of Photography: Laurențiu Răducanu
Production & Costume Designer: Anastasia Ionescu
Editor: Tudor D. Popescu
Sales: Radiator IP Sales