by Fatima Sheriff
July 4, 2020
One Room With a View
From the cramped quarters of New York’s Chinatown where individual beds are rented, Your Day is My Night artfully brings hidden immigrants into the light. The film follows a handful of people from this close community, who each share their histories through monologues and conversations.
Though a shot of the reddish apartment with its fire escapes could have jumped out of Friends, this is a side of New York people rarely see. Here, the basic sanctuary of sleep feels claustrophobic and upside down; the title refers to the subjects’ nocturnal existences, while the opening shot shows someone sleeping, their eyes flickering against the daylight and blocking out the city.
Lynne Sachs utilises a tactile, emotive approach to best enhance the stories told. The speeches are refined to become potently poetic, but the reality still shines through in the way each voice cracks and pauses. Combining these with intimate performances of a person waking up, stretching and making their bed, one can feel the proximity of, for example, Huang, who either sleeps alone, or shares with his elderly father.
In the daylight, Huang tells of the closet he first stayed in when he arrived and of his passion for singing, performing at weddings with tunes he considers a “bridge to the homeland”. He reveals that after a bad experience he is scared of the subway, electing to remain in his small circle. As a new arrival from Puerto Rico joins the household, clumsy but endearing communication begins and phone calls in Spanish join the chorus of an already chattering kitchen.
Each person’s tale is brief but impactful, intercut with graceful set pieces and grainy footage that allows time to visualise, absorb and contemplate. Your Day is My Night is a cultural window with many dimensions, building empathy with viewers in this politically charged environment.
DIRECTOR: Lynne Sachs
SYNOPSIS: “Shift-beds” are economic necessities in immigrant life. Strangers become confidants as the beds become a catalyst for storytelling, a stage for the collective experiences of Chinese immigrants.