Documentary Review: A Stunt Tour might be their big break, “After So Many Days”

Husband and wife folk-pop duo Jim Hanft and Samanta Yonak were newlyweds, married after a years long partnership as “Jim & Sam,” when they decided that one epic stunt was the key to them breaking through in the music business.

They would spend 2017 “playing one show a day, every day” as a way of keeping at it, pushing that “career progress” stone up a hill by “making something happen, every single day” musically.

It was a cute gimmick and a clever stunt, and it featured a rigorously-booked tour and a willingness to risk going broke in the process and a need for being generously flexible in their definition of a “gig.”

Because shows fall through. Weather acts up. Planning doesn’t take into account traffic jams. And being newlyweds, the stress of all that and this desire for success just might show up on stage.

“After So Many Days” is their self-filmed (cell phone cameras, mostly) account of that 365 day odyssey, skipping back and forth across the US, flying to Sweden more than once (apparently) to kick off Swedish and European tours, opening for LP in Brussels, having a “big break” show at South by Southwest go badly, playing in an aviation museum’s hangar in England, jamming on a ski lift, talking a London liquor store owner into letting them sing him a song, just to get that day’s gig in.

Hell, they sing to a drive-through barista at Starbucks at one point.

All of which, along with the fact that you’ve never heard of Jim & Sam,” point to a “Well, that didn’t work out as planned” documentary, an hour and twenty-six minutes of snatches of lovely harmonies singing mostly-forgettable tunes, rental cars and flights (not seen, mostly), bickering (gently) onstage and off, nothing here to mourn as tragedy or exult in as triumph.

They take this “crazy” chance on themselves, subleasing their LA flat to help finance the trip, “because NOT doing it would seem even crazier.”

They get advice from a European club owner/soup kitchen operator that “If you live the dream, the dream becomes real.”

And they play in a New York ice cream shop during a blizzard that cancels a raft of New England tour dates, stop and sing for a friendly and appreciative herd of cattle in Europe and even play through a sickbed performance in a UK hotel, summoning guests to come here even though one “band” member has a cold.

The mishmash of travel footage, marked only by show numbers (201, 242, etc) can be confusing, especially if you do the math and wonder what they did on LONG travel days where performing might not be possible, much less practical.

You come away a little impressed, if not particularly enthused. Remember “Once?” Singing couple falls in love singing duets? There’s nothing remotely emotional or as uplifting as any of the songs and scenes in that (fictional, improvised) film from a few years back.

“After So Many Days” lacks drama and pathos, and the humor is mostly in the vein of “Can you believe they’re playing in a Starbucks drive-thru and calling that a ‘gig?” The songs are limited to snippets, the travelogue — LOTS of trips to Sweden, where they have studio access and “fans” — is more impressive for the passport stamps than in the shows sampled.

They’re a cute couple, in that generic skinny jeans way. They harmonize well, and their songs have a (tiny) hint of edge to them. Are they still together? Are they still touring? Or is the song “Calling it Quits,” listed on assorted lyric websites, their farewell to “the dream?”

If so, at least they documented “our biggest show,” opening for LP in Belgium, getting a Euro-crowd to sing along with their drinking ballad, “Saturday Night and you’re all f—-d up again.”

“After So Many Days,” they’ll always have Brussels.

MPAA Rating: unrated, profanity

Cast: Jim Hanft, Samantha Yonack

Credits: Directed by Jim Hanft and Samantha Yonack, script by Natalia Anderson, Kyle Weber, Jim Hanft and Natalia Anderson.

Running time: 1:26

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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