“When Day is Done“, a 2016 short film by Brandon Roots, is a sojourn into the memories of a life shared, a touching portrait of one woman’s recollection of her late husband, from the inception of their relationship to his passing from dementia. Narrated through the delicate voice of Noreen Williamson, widow of Dean Williamson, the film is a poignant reflection of the brevity of existence, and the irreplaceable joy of companionship.
Told with 8mm home film footage and the setting of Noreen’s present, empty home, the story of the Williamsons is tenderly rendered into a story of universal value: the familiarity of romantic beginnings, of lives transplanted, and the undeniable, indiscriminate momentum of time, that ceaselessly propel people forward into happiness, sorrow, uncertainty and assurances. The juxtaposition of Noreen’s present widowhood and the joyous moments from her past is a sharp distinction, both in aesthetics and the razor contrast between time periods.
Noreen’s youthful perseverance in the face of adversity mirrors her current strength against the mortal inevitabilities of living; in spite of the void that Dean leaves behind in his passing, Noreen finds solace in the melody of a past era, a reminder that although better days may have come and gone, they are not forgotten, lingering on as cherished artifacts. Like the footage that persists from another time, her spirit likewise carries a nostalgia that does not wane with age, but rather sweetens with a golden tinge.
The banality of self-shot, home-made footage is a revelation that recalls, with freeze-frame precision, the mundane reality that permeates any given experience. What is most striking about any recollection is not necessarily the most significant event which occurs within that time frame, but the unacknowledged beauty and bliss that results from a passive happiness. Often, only through the scourge of time and the onset of age does one become cogent of the immensity of the moment, and it is this quality which makes “When Day is Done” a fine rumination—a celebration of life, in all its grit and finery.