I still remember that feeling of first discovery being made for myself at a young age. I came across Casablanca on Turner Classic Movies when I was 12 years old, and it was a moment that changed my life. And prior to getting into movies, I still found myself a sense of comfort from playing video games. It was a discovery of feeling that has only furthered where I wanted to go with my own life, being behind a shelter the whole time at the fear of what public perception would have brought upon myself. I was only discovering what films could speak large volumes for oneself, no matter what sort they were. And if any other film had spoken large volumes about what that sort of experience was like, there’s a reason I point to Terence Davies’s The Long Day Closes above all else: not only does it remain my favourite of the director’s work but an experience that came right at the perfect moment.
This is a film about the eleven-year-old Bud, a shy and lonely boy living in Liverpool. He isn’t a popular kid in school nor is he the center of attention in his family, and he finds a comfort at the cinema. The sort of person that Bud is, is among many aspects of The Long Day Closes that I find to be central to why it has ever managed to leave such a lasting effect upon me. This was my first Terence Davies film, and yet every revisit always feels like a first time because of just how much this film presents that resonates with me so beautifully. What more I’ve seen from Terence Davies has only ever managed to remain so beautiful in just how they capture life the way it is, almost bringing back more memories of the films of Yasujiro Ozu, but in The Long Day Closes what I saw more than just a beautiful love letter to film, but a memory coming back from Davies’s own end, about what brought him towards where he is now.
Terence Davies has always remained autobiographical throughout his work as reflected in Distant Voices, Still Livesalthough when I look at The Long Day Closes I come to think of this is a far greater achievement. In the slowness of life as it passes by, without any sense of hope, in Bud what I didn’t see was a character. Rather instead the way Bud was written only called for me to reflect upon how my own life is moving the way it is. I’m nearing the end of high school, and I’ve lived my life incredibly shy and I barely made many friends in real life, and my connections with even my own family members are stinted at best. On an occasion where they think they know me well enough, there’s something more I wish to tell them but my own relationships with my own parents have been so on-and-off to the point I just keep everything to myself.
Terence Davies made The Long Day Closes as his own love letter to cinema, and in how he captures the many languages that cinema as a whole speaks to us audiences, what I found was something all the more beautiful. I look back upon the day when I first saw Casablanca playing on television at the age of 12, and the impact it made on my life was so grand and the film had thus never left my head. Within the same month, I also caught my first foreign-language film on the same channel, Bicycle Thieves. I didn’t know a single word of what they were saying, and even with the subtitles coming by what I saw was the fact cinema has spoken its own language. The language of the dialect didn’t matter so much because within moving images what we see are memories to be had, and eventually shared with other people. Davies isn’t so much showing a memory anymore, but it was everything I always loved cinema for: speaking its own language to its viewers.
What did catch me about The Long Day Closes was that it also played itself as a discovery of sexual awakening. Davies knew at a young age that he was gay, and in Bud’s alienation from society there was a tale of discovery being told on the spot. There was a moment in which Bud laid his own eyes on a shirtless male construction worker, but in the world where he lives within, they only abide by what they see as “normal.” But Bud’s comfort in the cinema was one that went far more than just the fact he was seeing them speak a whole other language to him, they were opening his eyes to the world in itself and they were more than just a mere escape. And inside of a society where people are merely afraid of learning far and beyond, what had come by in The Long Day Closes was the comfort of finding a place where one can only let out truth. And the most heartbreaking part comes from the fact that this fear of knowing more has only sheltered such souls all the more.
I could write a whole lot more about The Long Day Closes and how it only managed to open my eyes up to possibility, but it would only be putting far too much pressure. Because deep inside, I’m just afraid of what it is that people make of the fact I love films. Everyone knows me at school as an autistic person who finds it hard enough to make friends in real life, and thus I’ve only lived my life as an introvert finding the comfort in friends I’ve made over the Internet that I don’t know in real life (except a few). And deep inside, I’m only worrying what it is that is perceived of me, especially from how I’m trying to write about what it is that I feel about the world I’m living within and how cinema has only helped me in finding a greater sense of comfort. And when I watched The Long Day Closes, all of these memories came back to me in only a most heartbreaking manner, and for that, I just thank Terence Davies for broadening my understanding of where I’ve gone now. But do I fully get it? I’m not even sure I can answer that, in all honesty.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Film4.
Directed by Terence Davies
Screenplay by Terence Davies
Produced by Olivia Stewart
Starring Marjorie Yates, Leigh McCormack, Anthony Watson
Release Year: 1992
Running Time: 85 minutes