Local actors Casey Turner and Matthew Delamater in “From the Morning to the Night.” Photos courtesy of Tadin Brego

Portland filmmaker Tadin Brego’s feature film “From the Morning to the Night” is about addiction. And, honestly, going into the film, I was wary. So many movies about people struggling with addiction stumble over good intentions and inevitable yet still overdone clichés. “The menu is not the meal,” as the saying goes, and a lot of films in this genre follow a well-meaning blueprint to a dull and dutiful tale of squalor, pain and (sometimes) redemption.

But “From the Morning to the Night,” which played at this year’s Maine International Film Festival and is making its Portland debut at Space on Sept. 19, both is, and is not, a story of addiction. Certainly, those are the bones of the story. A young woman coping with her own sobriety must come to terms with the overdose death of her estranged older brother, while flashbacks delve into the siblings’ loving but heroin-dependent relationship with each other and the woman they both love.

From the Morning to the Night | Official Trailer 2023 from Tadin Brego on Vimeo.

But the way writer-director Brego and an outstanding, mostly local cast flesh that story out is original, deeply honest and uniquely satisfying. Said Brego, a successful photographer and short filmmaker helming his first feature, “It’s kind of surprising this is a story I ever wanted to write, but it just fell out of me. I haven’t had to struggle with this kind of addiction, but I have friends who have. Plus, it’s such a huge part of Portland’s history, one that’s still occurring here every day.” (Maine saw over 700 overdose deaths in 2022 alone, 159 of them in Portland.)

“The conversation about addiction can be very one-sided and binary,” said Brego. “I think there’s a growing sympathy in the public sphere, but there are still stereotypes that only a certain type of person can be an addict. The film starts with a couple in a canoe, and it looks like a Maine advertisement. The thing is, you have no idea where people have been and what roads they’ve been down. It’s really about showcasing the humanity of it all.”

Brego, who also appears in the pivotal role of the doomed brother, may not have had personal experience to draw on in this Portland-set tale of drug abuse and personal pain, but he’s heartbreakingly good in the role. So are Claire Jamison as the fellow addict and prostitute both siblings love, Matthew Delamater as the lead character’s stable present-day boyfriend, also sharing a past battle with addiction, and especially lead actor Casey Turner, whose striking, many-layered turn anchors Brego’s visually driven story with one of the most strikingly honest portrayals I’ve seen in ages.


Turner, a veteran of Maine-made horror fare like Corey Norman’s “The Hanover House” and “Tickle,” imbues her character Orna’s tortured journey from addiction to seemingly stable sobriety (and possibly back again), a tour de force of things wrenchingly unsaid. Brego’s writing and directing style is blessedly bereft of speechifying, leaving his actors to register a world of pain with drawn, haunted looks and halting words and actions they more often than not wish they could take back. As the drawn and haunted center to nearly every scene, Turner expresses more about addiction, regret, love and loss than any multiplex full of high-minded, award-baiting monologues. She’s outstanding. So is “From the Morning to the Night,” even if, like so many Maine-made, low-budget movies, it took a whole lot of time and effort to get here.

Horror veteran Turner is a tour fee force in her portrayal Orna as she wavers between addiction and sobriety.

“It’s been a long time in the making,” said Brego, noting that his initial filming took place all the way back in 2015. “It was supposed to be a summer short with some friends … I was 22, and it could have well been a college film for all intents and purposes. But then I started getting feedback and developing the story, and it gradually grew into what would become my first feature. Early on, I realized it was going to be a years-long process.”

Brego wasn’t wrong, with the filmmaker and his cast and crew reassembling all through the next several years, complete with all the logistical and technical roadblocks any Maine filmmaker knows all too well. “We filmed for three years, then it was another full year before I finished the final cut. I was funding it myself, and my crappy laptop at the time didn’t help. Then the pandemic happened, and all the festivals we were applying to shut down.”

Maine movie people are nothing if not patient (plus stubborn), so Brego and his team’s long wait finally paid off when “From the Morning to the Night” was accepted to the reopened Maine International Film Festival last year. Seeing his long-nurtured and deeply personal project finally hit the big screen in front of a paying audience was, according to Brego, worth the wait. “People seemed to enjoy it. There were a lot of emotions after so long making the film, to have people experience it.”

Brego is especially excited for the screening at Space, since that venerable Portland film and event venue has long stood as the Virginia transplant’s beacon of Maine artistic achievement. “I always had a connection with Space,” said Brego, who will be at the screening along with several of his cast and crew. “It’s one of the last Portland venues for the locals, and I can’t wait to show my film there and hang out with people afterward.”

And people should go and see “From the Morning to the Night.” Apart from being a resolutely Portland experience (landmarks and titles make clear that the characters’ very real lives take place all around town), Maine moviegoers will witness a tangible and triumphant demonstration of the Maine film community’s ever-supportive solidarity. “When I started out here, Maine didn’t have a real community of professionals. The 48 Hour Film Project and Damnationland sort of got everyone in the same room, and over the years the scene has grown so much. People have really dialed in their craft. It’s become a real community of creatives.”


Brego cites stellar work of veteran Maine cinematographer Mark Hensley (“the fact he showed up for this free project still amazed me,” says the director), and a scan through the credits sees name after name (Ian Carlson, Jeff Griecci, Dean Merrill, Christine Louise Marshall) that will be familiar to anyone who’s read this column over the last decade.

“It’s more than just a community of creatives,” Brego said of his wide-ranging roster of collaborators. “All these people love each other. That’s rare, and it speaks to how great and unique this community is. If you’re a good person and a hard worker, Maine will accept you.”

“From the Morning to the Night” will have its Portland premiere at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, at Space, 538 Congress St., Portland. Tickets are $9, or $7 if you’re a Space member. The film is 77 minutes and would be rated R for drug use, language, sexuality and violence.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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