A Day and a Half Review – A confined and claustrophobic story with a vice-like grip

By Eamon Hennedy
Published: September 1, 2023 (Last updated: September 4, 2023)
A Day and a Half Review - A confined and claustrophobic story with a vice-like grip


An air of tension and a modern, slick visual quality. Fares Fares delivers a New Hollywood-style drama.

This review of the Netflix film A Day and a Half does not contain spoilers.

A Day and a Half opens in a quiet but propulsive manner. There’s an air of tension hovering over it immediately and it never quite dissipates for the next ninety minutes. Director Fares Fares (pulling double duty as one of its stars) begins as if it’s going to be Dog Day Afternoon, before turning into a variation of Steven Spielberg’s The Sugarland Express

Those might sound like lofty comparisons, but A Day and a Half puts one in mind of New Hollywood works from the 1970s. Being a Netflix film, it has a more modern and slick visual quality, but there’s a realistic thrust to the drama that puts one on edge for its ninety-minute duration.

A Day and a Half review and plot summary

On paper it sounds like it has the potential to be more of an action film; it begins with a hostage situation, subsequently turning into a chase movie. There are copious amounts of police cars and armed officers in pursuit, but it never goes for the obvious. This is a film squarely centered on its characters, their flaws, and how they deal with their mistakes. 

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There is almost something quite defeating about its atmosphere and how its world treats its protagonists. The Swedish roads and lush countryside might look beautiful, but it’s a background setting for a confined and very claustrophobic story, and that’s not even in reference to its car setting. 

Artan Kalmendi (Alexej Manvelov) is on edge the moment we meet him. His wife Louise (Alma Poysti) clearly doesn’t want to see him; their separation has been vindictive and their lives are a mess. From there, the film’s fraught hostage situation turns into a long drive to a destination that feels as if it has the potential to turn bad very quickly. Along with Artan’s other hostage, police officer Lukas (Fares Fares), the three find themselves trying to resolve the situation while dealing with their own fractured lives.

Is A Day and a Half good or bad?

While this doesn’t quite have the power of Dog Day Afternoon or The Sugarland Express (very few do in all honesty), A Day and a Half does grip like a vice. The film feels as if it could go either way in terms of its conclusion. It could resolve peacefully, or it could go the other way. Moments of tension arise from a deflating petrol tank to a group of youths egging the car from a bridge, all the way to a horrifyingly hate-filled reunion with Louise’s parents.

READ: Is A Day and a Half based on a true story? Netflix Movie Explained

Little details sneak into the story that end up painting it as a more complex work as it goes on; Artan’s ethnicity is used against him by both the media and his in-laws, while Louise’s mental health isn’t helped by her parents who may very well be the closest the film has to pure-blooded villains. They are certainly the most hateful characters to show up.

Is A Day and a Half worth watching?

Even more remarkable are the film’s final moments. No spoilers here, but credit where credit is due in opting for something subtle and heartrending, if not in the way the audience might be expecting.

It would be so easy for the film to go for broke with action and spectacle. Instead, it finds its fireworks with emotions and heartbreak, of lives that haven’t turned out the way they should, and the recriminations that come from regret.

What did you think of A Day and a Half? Comment below.

You can watch this film with a subscription to Netflix.

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