Day-O on Duty
Language note: These screencaps are from a version of Day-O that's dubbed in German; I still haven't located a copy of the movie in its original English. The discussion is based mostly on a very helpful synopsis written by a Faculty member, and a bit on my own rudimentary understanding of German. There are times when I'm unsure exactly what's being said, and I try to point those out in the discussion. Also, since all I've seen/heard is a dubbed version, I can't make any comments on line delivery, etc. The voice used for Elijah isn't his, but I didn't find it jarringly different.
Spoiler note: In discussing Day-O, I'm not going to even try to avoid spoilers, for a couple of reasons: the story's predictable on its own, and the movie's not widely available (to put it mildly!). Also, in scenes like the one on this page, it's pretty hard to talk about the acting without explaining what's going on. If you really want to avoid knowing what happens, better not read this page. (OTOH, some of the pics are almost too cute to pass up.)
As I said in the general comments on this movie, this could be the closest Elijah's gotten to playing himself. Not that Elijah doesn't give us a consistent, "real" (figuratively speaking) character, but Day-O seems a lot like the real 10-year-old Elijah we've seen in interviews and outtakes. I'm guessing this is one reason I so often catch him in this movie resembling one or another of his later characters. Froshadowings in this movie? Oh, yes, I think so!
Setting the scene:
For anyone who's not aware of this movie, Elijah plays Grace's childhood imaginary friend (Day-O) who's come back into her life 30 years later, at a time she especially needs some support and encouragement. Complications arise from the fact that no one but Grace can see or hear him.
In this scene, Grace and Day-O come home from the park to find Grace's husband, Ben, sitting in the dark, waiting for her. He's obviously despondent about something; neither Grace nor Day-O knows what the problem is, but the audience does. After overhearing her talk to Day-O a couple of times, he had begun to think there was another man in her life, so he followed her to the park where he saw her talking with a tall, blond man. It was a perfectly innocent conversation between two people who happened to be at the same place at the same time, but her husband feels his suspicions were confirmed. During this first shot, Grace and Day-O are still clueless about what's bothering him.
The following close-up is the only thing I've posted frame-by-frame. How could I not? Grace and Day-O have moved to the couch to sit beside Ben (that's Grace's shoulder to Day-O's left (our right), and he's looking at Ben).
As Ben talks about seeing Grace with someone at the park, the confusion begins (well, continues). Day-O was playing on the playground equipment while Grace was talking to the stranger, and it was such a passing conversation that Grace has forgotten about it. So, if Ben saw her at the park with her "friend" (hey, even I can translate "Freund"), that could mean only one thing...
...and Day-O seems rather pleased...
As already posted in the Faculty Lounge, this is, to the best of my knowledge, the only cinematic image of Elijah Wood with even one of his eyes artificially enhanced (I'm halfway expecting to hear from someone who worked on the movie, informing me that the twinkle was real).
Grace tries to explain to Ben that it wasn't "another man" he saw her with, but Day-O. Ben doesn't understand who Day-O is, and thinks that's the name of the tall blond she was speaking with.
A little Monkey-Boy action with the feet here, as Day-O climbs onto the back of the couch. The character likes to be in the center of things, especially when he thinks he's... well, the center of things.
Grace is excited, too, that Ben was able to see Day-O, as no one but her has been able to.
Day-O is actually a physically intricate role, at least the way Elijah plays it. It often calls for getting as close as possible to people other than Grace without actually touching them, so he stays "imaginary" to everyone but her. A lesser talent probably wouldn't have been sitting in this position (also keep in mind that he's perched on the top of the couch). It's the perfect spot in the picture for him, though, as we get his reactions to both Grace and Ben.
Ben describes the man he saw with Grace, and the description doesn't fit Day-O. Grace is confused again.
Nope, not me.
Grace realizes who he's talking about...
...and tries to explain the situation to him. He's further confused, because now Grace has thrown a short, brown-haired "Freund" into the conversation. I'd have to hear this in English (or improve my German a lot) to be sure, but I think Grace still has the idea in her head that Ben could see Day-O in the park.
The word "Freund" gets thrown around a lot here, with different meanings and misunderstandings, as it probably is in the original English, as well. The tall blond person is not her "Freund." The short, brown-haired one "...is Day-O." The fact that Grace seems to think this completely clarifies things is one reason I think she still believes Ben saw Day-O.
But, of course, he hadn't. Not any more than he's seeing him in this scene.
"Who is Day-O?"
"My imaginary 'Freund.'"
Ben had heard her mention her imaginary friend, but he hadn't realized that it had gone this far--that she actually thought Day-O was real.
Ben switches quickly from thinking Grace is unfaithful to thinking she's psychotic. He jumps to the phone (possibly to call a doctor--again, I'm not sure). I love how concerned Day-O looks here; even his posture shows it.
Okay, another plot component comes into play here. Grace found out toward the beginning of the movie that she's pregnant. She's frightened and overwhelmed by it, and hasn't told Ben, although Day-O has been telling her all along that she should. Now Day-O becomes insistent, shouting, "Tell him about the baby!" (or words to that effect) repeatedly.
So she finally does. As she does, watch Day-O's face, hands and stance relax from this...
...to this. Amazing "whole body" acting for a 10-year-old. All his muscles go from tensed to relaxed. How many actors that age would have had their hands in sync with the character's emotion?
Mission accomplished (well, this one, anyway), Day-O falls back onto the couch in relief.
One thing I find odd about this movie is that being pregnant seems to cover a multitude of insanities. Grace has a lot of strange behavior throughout the movie--most, but not all, of it having something to do with Day-O. But as soon as she says, "I'm pregnant," to a person who's concerned about her, there seems to be no need for concern. Visible and audible hallucinations (as well as a number of other things) are treated as if they're perfectly normal for a pregnant woman. The pregnancy explains everything. This happens not only with Ben, but with several other people during the course of the movie.
Oh, well, it makes Day-O's job a little easier.