New York City is many things to many people, offering starshot successes and skid-row breakdowns in the same breathless hour. None can deny that the city is a hive of possibilities, both good and bad. Dark Days, an engaging black-and-white documentary about the homeless who dwell in abandoned subway tracks, explores each side of Manhattan's alluring coin.
Director Marc Singer wisely allows the subjects to speak for themselves—and speak they do. Beyond the initial shock of entire communities living below New York streets is the even more surprising fact that many of them are natural comedians. One man waxes poetic about his cats. He holds up a photo of one and a grinning buddy injects: "eats the rats." It's a joke, but also speaks the grim truth of living among vermin in semi-darkness. The man then pulls out a picture of his favorite feline; his friend, smiling like a schoolboy at recess, says: "eats the Martians." While the film does not shy away from the gloomy reality of these subterranean folks, most of whom are or were drug addicts, the people themselves have wit, intelligence, and spirit.
With brilliant, unusual subjects and excellent cinematography and editing, Dark Days is a pleasure to watch. At barely over an hour, one leaves the theater wanting more. The hurried ending seems to prevent a less pleasant conclusion to the precious and precarious lives depicted.