Everyone wants to change something in their lives. But what if a desire to change the past completely destroyed the present and future? That's the idea behind Daybreak, the feature film debut of indie director Michael James Kacey. What if a wish came true... but brought terrifying chaos with it?
Daybreak's tragic tale explores what happens when a budding artist named Jeff Stokes (Paul Clemens) wishes that his infertile wife, Michelle (Debra Henri), could conceive a child. They live contently in a small Pennsylvania community, but content isn't enough for Jeff. He needs to have children of his own. He wants them more than anything.
One day, Jeff's burning desire to procreate leads him to make a subconscious bargain with homeless man. How can a homeless man change the course of history and alter the future? That's never discussed, but let's suspend disbelieve and go with it.
The next day, Jeff's life is different. His wishes have been fulfilled. He and his wife have their own children. But major portions of his past have changed. Jeff no longer paints; instead, he works full time as an insurance agent. His failed artistic endeavors have turned him into an angry, bitter man, and that's just a seed of the dark revelations that are about to surface.
Kacey (who also wrote and produced the film) has an intriguing -- albeit dark -- premise. Once Daybreak reveals itself as a bleaker version of The Twilight Zone, there's no stopping it as Jeff is burdened by one horrible plague after another. Yet, despite the grim nature of the film, it doesn't feel depressing or unpleasant. Quietly, Daydreak draws the audience in until they're engrossed in the fascinating emotional hell Jeff has created for himself.
Well, not completely engrossed. The story is interesting, but it's difficult to get involved when the actors lack depth, charisma, and chemistry. While Paul Clemens holds his own and Jeff Berquist delivers a startling performance as Jeff's tortured father, most of the acting is terrible. Debra Henri -- most notably -- misses the mark in almost every scene. Her performance weakens the very structure of the film. Because of so many weak performances, Daybreak holds the audience at an uncomfortable distance.
I look forward to Michael James Kacey's next film. Daybreak is proof that his ideas are fresh and engaging; I just hope he can find better actors. If he made this film on a budget of 500 grand, imagine what he can do with several million and some A-list actors....
We couldn't afford the whole bouquet.