In the months since Any Day Now premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, the ’70s set drama about a gay couple that takes in a neglected teen with Down syndrome, only to have their guardianship challenged by the courts, has won the Audience Award at nearly every festival it has played. Those honors have gone a long way to validating writer/director Travis Fine’s vision and passion, but the accolade that’s meant the most is the nod he got from an audience of one.
“My 18-year-old daughter flew to New York and surprised me at [our premiere],” Fine tells TakePart. “A lot of the inspiration and some of the moments in the film came from challenges that we’ve had and hurdles that we had to overcome, oftentimes not because of her and I, but because of outside forces; so to have a real full circle moment for the premiere was just exceptional.”
Fine is not gay, but as Any Day Now, which opens in theaters this week, proves, that detail should be as irrelevant in evaluating his movie as sexual orientation should be in considering whether someone is a good parent. The film isn’t the product of a particular agenda, but rather of the writer/director’s desire to “tell a story about three people who felt in love in an unlikely way and formed a family.”
The director discovered his unlikely family when his music supervisor, P. J. Bloom, passed along a screenplay his father George had written 20 years earlier. The script detailed the real-life bond between a flamboyant nightclub staple (Alan Cumming) and a mentally and physically disabled boy (Isaac Leyva) who lived in the clubber’s building. The boy was all but parentless since his mother was a drug addict.
That story now serves as the foundation for Any Day Now. Fine expanded the narrative to include the struggle of a prosecutor for the district attorney’s office (Garret Dillahunt) who falls for the nightclub performer and the boy. Soon, the prosecutor is defending his newfound family in court for the right to keep their boy in a loving home rather than in state-run foster care.
Fine sought out the help of the Family Equality Council to ensure details were right. He eventually brought aboard Wayne LaRue Smith and Daniel Skahen, a gay couple whose care for 33 children over a decade came under scrutiny from Florida courts, as executive producers. Ultimately, the director found that the key to maintaining accuracy was to stay true to himself.
“What was interesting to me was how everybody who had been part of this fight for rights said, ‘Wow, you really got the court stuff so accurate; you must’ve done so much research,’ ” Fine recalls. “And I said, ‘No, I wrote from the heart.’ ”
Fine hopes that audiences will use that same compass to guide them through the film, though compassion may be a hard sell to those who have already made up their minds against the issue.
“There are some people out there who may not normally go see the film, just based on the subject matter,” says Fine. “But my hope is that some people go to the theater and remain open to seeing a story that is ultimately about family and about love.”
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