A true visual feast, The Long Day Closes tracks several months in the life of Bud (Leigh McCormack), a twelve year old boy growing up in 1956 Liverpool, England. Introspective and slightly gawky, Bud doesn’t talk a lot, often lost in his own thoughts. 1950’s England is a country dealing with postwar economic deprivation and severe rationing. Buildings are still crumbled from the constant bombings. Add in England’s penchant for heavy rain, and a pall hangs over Liverpool.
As we watch Bud play with his friends, talk to his mother (Marjorie Yates) and his older siblings, he finds solace in the local movie theater. Director Terence Davies doesn’t concern himself with creating a linear storyline; instead he puts us right into Bud’s life, as if we were a fly on the wall. Other characters walk in an out; the constant is the music and the sound of the film. Davies has many well known songs play over scenes of Bud’s family life—serving to remind us of the time period also demonstrate Bud’s fascination with the silver screen. This is a lonely boy who lives life with a soundtrack constantly spooling in his head, be it Nat King Cole’s “Twilight Time” or Debbie Reynolds singing “Tammy.”
Along with family, Bud must deal with school and issues in the church. Dealing with the first stirrings of adolescence, Bud spends a lot of time just trying to keep his head above water. The teachers and students at elementary school are violent; class begins with teachers whacking the boys on the hand with a cane. The local church weighs heavily on Bud’s mind; the crucifixion both captivating and scaring him. His home life, with the nurturing of his mother, and the affection of his siblings is Bud’s safe haven.
Davies does such a fine job of capturing the 1950’s; you could swear you were watching someone’s home movies. Davies is content to sit and watch as Bud marvels at the small things—the sun, or light from the fireplace. Davies deliberate style is hard not to see as authentic; there all things everyone has done at one time or another. We may respond to., and remember them differently, but we can all relate.
Davies ends The Long Day Closes with a stunning visual: three minutes of clouds drifting over a full moon as the title song plays, timed perfectly so that the moon’s glow is gradually engulfed by the clouds. The music ends as the last glimmer of light is extinguished: a remembered moment in time, stamped in the mind and transferred to film for all to see…These are apparently Terence Davies childhood memories. Perhaps, but it’s likely most viewers will find a piece of their own childhood in The Long Day Closes.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Criterion’s newly restored 2k transfer is a very good one. Image depth and clarity are pleasing throughout. The color palette is rather drab with lots of browns and blacks, but it comes across nicely. There is no DNR to speak of, and a slight grain gives the proceedings a nice filmic appearance.
The uncompressed stereo soundtrack serves the film quite well. Dialogue is clear and concise throughout. The 1950’s music that plays throughout is clean and surprisingly vibrant, largely from the front panels. The various pieces of film dialogue that are used throughout are also clear.
English subtitles are available.
The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary by Director Terence Davies and Director of Photography Mick Coulter: In this fun, informative commentary, the two recall the shooting process, working with the actors, different shot selection, etc. Courtesy of the BFI.
- The South Bank Show Featuring Terence Davis (HD, 47.22) Recorded in 1992, a month before The Long Day Closes premiered at Cannes, Davis discusses, growing up in Liverpool, his filmmaking style, love for Hollywood musicals, and some of the film’s themes. Interviews with actor Leigh McCormack and production designer Christopher Hobbs are also included.
- Interview with Colin MacCabe (HD, 13:53) Conducted by Criterion in 2013, former head of the BFI Production Board and executive producer of The Long Day Closes discusses working with Davies, and the financial issues involved in bringing the film to the screen.
- Interview with Christopher Hobbs (HD, 20:27) Conducted by Criterion in 2013, production designer Christopher Hobbs discusses the process of building the sets for the film.
- Trailer (SD, 2:47)
- Booklet: An illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Koresky.
- DVD of the film with extras.