Daybreak is an HBO drama based on Alan Bowne's acclaimed off-Broadway play Beirut. The play is a taut, two-character allegory about AIDS that takes place in one dismal room on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The film has been "opened-out" into an apocalyptic, romantic action-thriller. New York City is a 1984-style fascist nightmare steeped in poverty and ridden with plague. Bands of armed officers under the rubric Operation Helping Hand roam the streets rounding up Positives, who are tattooed and quarantined in filthy hellholes. Blue, a poor but pretty young woman (sweet-faced Moira Kelly), stumbles onto a secret resistance group that rescue Positives to give them compassionate care. Blue falls in love with their courageous leader, Torch, powerfully played by Cuba Gooding Jr. The play focuses on the relationship between these star-crossed lovers and the film's best moments do the same. Neither the play nor the film ever mentions AIDS by name, but it is clear that in both cases AIDS is the plague in question and the theme is the hysteria that AIDS can generate. The horrible future these dramas foresaw did not come to pass. Since they were written, great medical strides have been made that have changed the face of AIDS. But fear and misinformation about the disease persist. AIDS remains a major health crisis worldwide and Daybreak is a powerful film that deserves to be seen. --Laura Mirsky
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