Less a sequel to Surrogate Valentine than another chapter in the life of an itinerant musician, Dave Boyle's Daylight Savings is charming, low-key, and self-effacing, reflecting the appealing on-screen personality of Goh Nakamura.
Nakamura again plays "himself," a gifted singer and songwriter who only appears truly at home when he's alone on stage, strumming his guitar. In the first film, Goh nursed an unrequited crush on longtime friend Rachel (Lynn Chen), even as he dabbled in one-night stands on the road. As Daylight Savings begins, he has moved on from Rachel into a long-term relationship ... which promptly ends ... when she breaks up with him over Skype.
This seems to be Goh's lot in life; he's not quite a perpetual victim, but he is victimized more than any good-natured, sweet individual should be.
Lacking much experience in dealing with the break-up of a long-term relationship, and not being the sort to dive into drugs or alcohol, Goh is at a loss. He's poised to start another "big" tour -- he's always on the verge of a career break-out, it seems, without quite getting there yet -- and starts to lose the focus he needs; he can't even concentrate sufficiently to handle a brief, promotional radio interview.
And then he meets a girl, but not just any girl. Playing "herself," Yea-Ming Chen, is smart, sexy, assured -- and, as a bonus, a fellow musician who's enjoying a measure of success. They talk, they flirt, they connect emotionally, they tumble into bed together, they separate in the morning. Yea-Ming has a gig in Las Vegas, and Goh has to start his tour.
Goh has only rarely felt that kind of connection, and wonders if Cupid's arrow has struck again. His cousin Mike (Michael Aki) arrives to travel with Goh to his first stop on the tour, and convinces him that they should detour to Las Vegas so Goh can 'declare his love,' or somesuch thing. Goh agrees, reluctantly, leading to further (mis)adventures.
The "road trip" section of the film veers off target with the introduction of Mike's colorful friend, padding the running time with incident without telling us much that we didn't already know about Goh. As soon as the boys get to Vegas, though, the film gets back on track.
That's because, again, Goh Nakamura is genuinely engaging, and Yea-Ming Chen is his equal. The dynamic of their relationship is fascinating to watch, and is strikingly different from the yearning that Goh expressed in the first film for Rachel. Rachel was closer to an object of fantasy, idealized over years into a figure close to perfection, whereas Yea-Ming is real and down-to-earth.
Temperamentally, they're a good match; neither one puts on airs or cares much about the trappings of success. But timing is important, too; they're not quite at the same place in their lives, which leaves open the question of whether they could ever make it work.
None of this is to spoil how the story goes; you can see it in the first encounter between Goh and Yea-Ming. It defines the film: Nearly everyone wants a loving relationship, but it has to be with the right person and at the right time. And how do you know when it is?
Bill Otto's cinematography, presented in black and white, is again quite good, and the musical score (by Nakamura) and the songs (performed by Nakamura and Chen) add a lilting buoyancy. As in his other films (Big Dreams Little Tokyo, White on Rice), Dave Boyle demonstrates a good grasp of his characters and the landscapes that surround them, all of which makes Daylight Savings a resonant piece of work.
It's perhaps more haunting than Surrogate Valentine, as Goh Nakamura searches for answers to questions he'd rather not ask.
Daylight Savings has its World Premiere tonight, Saturday, March 10, and has several more screenings at SXSW. It also screens tomorrow night at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. See links below for more information.