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February 18, 2015

The Long Day Closes

by Franz Patrick


Long Day Closes, The (1992)
★★★ / ★★★★

When is a movie not a movie but a poem?

Written and directed by Terence Davies, “The Long Day Closes” plays more like a memory rather than a standard story with defined exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action—which is a most appropriate approach considering that the material is autobiographical. To tell it through an expected arc would have cheapened an otherwise sensitive, visually-striking, subtle picture with something genuine to say about loneliness.

Bud (Leigh McCormack) is an outsider. At school, he does not have very many friends. Most boys his age play and talk rough while he is quieter and more into his own world. At home, although he gets along with his mother (Marjorie Yates) and three elder siblings, the considerable age difference makes him feel like his interests are worlds apart than theirs. In order to feel less alone, he likes to go to the movies and be entertained by epic stories, song and dance, and timeless movie stars.

The film likes to take its time to give the audience a chance to appreciate the images in front of us. Right from the beginning, for instance, the camera stays still and asks us to really see the beauty of a street drenched in raindrops. In a way, we see through the eyes of the protagonist. He likes to watch things unfold and soak in what little moments offer.

It plays with light and shadows with elegance. I was mesmerized by the sequence where the camera simply fixates on a rug coupled with a time-lapse of the day. The way the shadows migrate from one spot to another, sometimes disappearing, is delightful because we typically do not stare at one spot for an entire day to see something like that. In other words, the writer-director gives us images that we may otherwise not get a chance to see.

The use of classical music and a cappella adds another layer to the story. I found that it captures the atmosphere of the post-war, mid-1950s through a child’s eyes. To him, it is a very innocent time—pure—but it makes an impression because he has begun to become more self-aware of his identity. Just when one might expect for it to turn into a coming-of-age territory some time in the middle, it is able to maintain its focus and general tone: a gloomy retrospection of a boy realizing that he is different and how painful that fact can be at times. There is no lesson that encourages a person that it is okay to be oneself because at the protagonist’s age, fitting in feels more important.

“The Long Day Closes” is not about plot but about sensation. We are given fragments of memories and it is up to us to consider why certain events have made an impression on Bud. It is the kind of film where the audience has a choice to participate and really engage by considering one’s own memories and why certain images have left a mark.

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