movie film review | chris tookey

Dark Days

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  Dark Days Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
7.67 /10

Directed by: Marc Singer
Written by:

Released: 2000
Origin: US
Colour: BW
Length: 84

A riveting but none too deep documentary about down-and-outs who have lived below New York in the subways, doing their best to build themselves shanty-towns, while fending off the rats and each other.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Director Marc Singer did a great job over two years, of gaining their confidence. He makes the audience aware of their humanity and the extent to which some have been abused or just plain unlucky.

You have to admire their resilience and resourcefulness. It's hard not to sympathise with the agony of a former crack addict who was helpless in prison when his five year-old daughter was raped and had an arm and a leg hacked off by her attacker. "I wasn't taking care of her," was his understatement.

One of their biggest problems , unfortunately, is an inability to communicate. "Y'know what I'm sayin'?" is the most frequent turn of speech, to which the honest answer would be "Not really". Singer avoids judging them, but he pointedly (and repetitively) juxtaposes their behaviour with the scavenging of their neighbours, the rats.

We're told that 80% of those underground are crack addicts, but most of those he interviews seem to be trying to come off drugs. And, abject though their lives are, they appear to be an elite. Singer only manages to talk with people who have been down there for a year or two - not the most hardened cases, who have been down there for a decade or two.

A final section of the film deals with the rehousing of the leading characters above ground, and is carried along by their almost childish excitement at their good fortune. Though it is impossible not to wish them well, there seems an unreality about Singer's feelgood tone, which implies that even the most hopeless of these cases can be redeemed instantly with proper housing.

Will they really live happily ever after, or are their psychological wounds and addictions too deep to heal? I hope Mr Singer will be honest enough to make a sequel, and tell us what happens.


Singer doesn't edit in a way to jerk our emotions but instead offers an unblinking report, told with humor and honesty. Some of the footage is repellent -- the shots of scurrying rats grow redundant - but Dark Days captures an unvarnished, painful truth and manages to end on an upbeat note.... The ending is sweet, but abrupt and inconclusive. I would have liked to know more about the ways that Dee, Ralph, Greg and Tommy were able to cope when they went above ground - the jobs they found, where they relocated, the challenges they found in being remainstreamed and shedding their homeless status.

(Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle)

On a human level, it's hard to fault Singer for being supportive, but Dark Days suffers from a lack of rigor at the very end.

(Amy Taubin, Village Voice)

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