“In the Gloaming” is a private, quiet and gentle filmed directed by the late Christopher Reeve. It is gorgeous in its simplicity and has a great deal to say. Here is one of those films that are not soon forgotten.
A son spends his last months at home, in a wheelchair, as he dies of AIDS. In doing so he helps his family come to terms with his life and e brings his parents to an understanding of those unsaid things that caused them to drift apart over the previous years. The movie is short but in its brevity it expresses the deep, gentle love that is revealed during tragedy.
All of the action revolves around the family’s domestic routines and intimate conversations between mother and son who bask in the gloaming or the last hour of sunlight. The mother is played by Glenn Close and she is brilliant. Leonard, the son, is beautiful in his delicacy and as he fades, we all fade a bit. The movie is about mother and son and everyone else in the film takes a backseat to this. At the end of the story, the secondary characters rise to take their places in the story but only at the end. We know that there are family complications, especially when a family member s dying. What is compelling is the stoic and reserved nature of the response of the characters to the gay son’s health crisis.
Whoopi Goldberg turns in a good performance as the nurse teaches the mother to care, physically, for her son and to interact with him. The death scene is heart breaking and it gives a beautiful symbolic representation of as one life ends, another is reborn.
The exploration of the family over a four month period as the prodigal son ails and dies is touching to the point of hurt. Danny, the dying son, as well as the other family members has constructed illusions of perfection so they do not have to face the pain of their isolated and lonely lives together. Only Danny is aware how everyone feels beneath their self-deceptions. His presence jars them to shirk the pretense and they fall away just as quickly as Danny’s body loses strength. The unpleasant reality emerges that the gay son has returned home to die.
The family is “perfect”, save Danny. He has brought shame ad a sense of disgrace to them with his sexuality. Yet he is the only one who has lived his life openly and honestly. As he transitions to death, what has made him an outcast becomes the most profound and greatest gift his family will ever receive. He taught them self-sacrifice, non-judgment and unconditional love.
The title comes from the time when Danny and his mother share their lives with each other in open and candid ways. During the gloaming things move more slowly and G-d’s face is visible. It is then that they heal and become whole.
Even though the son has AIDS, the movie is not about AIDS at all. It is a movie about going home and about healing.
This movie is Reeve’s legacy to us and it is a beautiful legacy that he left. He moves us and our souls leading us into the family and its troubled relationship. He has wrapped himself in this movie and then tied it with a bow and gave it to us. It’s a beautiful gift.
Although the DVD release of this film has been announced several times, it has never come out. What a pity.