In the Gloaming (TV Movie 1997) Poster

(1997 TV Movie)

User Reviews

Review this title
13 Reviews
Sort by:
"In the Gloaming" is an inspiring and transcendent legacy
sourcelegacy19 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This astonishing little 62-minute film marked Christopher Reeve's directorial debut following the now-infamous riding accident that eventually claimed his life, and it is in my opinion one of the most beautiful, most poetic, most artful, and most visually stunning works ever committed to film. Upon re-review, I'm thrilled to find that the eight years since "In the Gloaming" premiered have done nothing to lessen its awesome emotional wallop. Rather, with the passing of Christopher Reeve and the recent announcement of Dana Reeve's imminent battle with lung cancer, "In the Gloaming" takes on a kind of staggering personal authority and wisdom that in the end proves almost eerily prophetic – the kind of tragic twists of fate that somewhere in time manage to turn superior film-making into lyrical, haunting works of art.

Based on an Alice Elliott Dark short story of the same name, "In the Gloaming" explores a family's journey of healing over a four-month period as the prodigal son, Danny, returns unceremoniously home. It isn't clear to us at first precisely why Danny has come home, and no one in the family bothers to explore it, though they seem to silently know. Instead, they wear false smiles, talk about tomatoes and museums, and deny that anything unusual is happening right before their eyes. Save for Danny, the whole family has constructed illusions of perfection to shield them from the pain of their lonely, isolated lives together, and only Danny at first seems to notice how miserable and heart-sick everyone is beneath those sad self-deceptions. But the truth of his presence is so jarring that the family's moth-eaten veneers and pretenses begin to disintegrate as rapidly as Danny's body, and the unpleasant reality is revealed to us: the gay prodigal son has returned home to die.

While Danny is the only "imperfect" family member, the one who has brought shame and a quiet sense of disgrace to their lives, he is also the only one who has lived his life the most openly, honestly, and without guile. And as his body deteriorates and he begins the transition from life into death, his uncompromising sense of truth that in life made him an outcast becomes in death his greatest and most profound gift to his conflicted family. From Danny they learn self-acceptance, non-judgment, and unconditional love.

The heart of the story unfolds each evening at sunset, in the gloaming, where Danny and his mother (played by Glenn Close) meet to at last share their lives with one another – openly, candidly, nakedly. And during that magical time of day when things move more slowly and you can see the face of God, "that time of longing between day and night", mother and son heal and become again whole.

Unlike other AIDS-related films, "In the Gloaming" isn't really about AIDS at all. And while the plot revolves around a young man dying of AIDS, it isn't really about death, either. It's singularly about healing. It is, in fact, a film that transcends its own genre and gracefully sidesteps the contrivances inherent to the typical gay story (the distant father and overprotective mother, etc. – stereotypes which are part of this story, by the way, but which are handled with exceptional freshness, originality, and poignancy by Reeve).

At its essence, "In the Gloaming" is a film about going home – not "home" to mom and dad, but home in the grandest universal sense – and it employs transitions throughout to fulfill this journey: It takes place in the fall, when Summer transitions to Winter; the primary action occurs at sunset when the day transitions into night; and the story itself depicts a human being transitioning from one state of life into the next (his soul even ascends at the end of the film, if you pay close attention to Reeve's cinematography). There isn't a single bit of fat in this economical script, not one unnecessary word, not one untruthful moment, not one artificial performance.

As a debut work, "In the Gloaming" proved without question that Christopher Reeve could direct; as a legacy, it proves that he was an artist of the finest caliber. This film embraces the nakedness of human emotion with total abandon; Reeve seems intent to move our souls with his, and he absolutely succeeds. He takes us immediately by the hand and leads us into the guts of this family's troubled relationship with the grace and authority of a real storyteller. From the opening piano chords through to Dana Reeve's haunting acappella rendition of the title song at the close of the movie, Reeve seems to have wrapped his heart completely around this film, bookending it with the life-breath of his own personal experience (he even cast his young son to play Danny in the opening segment). You cannot escape this film untouched.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sad and beautiful
raymond-1514 July 2003
My first observation was the beauty of the landscape. The New England area must be one of the most beautiful places on earth, especially in autumn when the leaves turn gold and red. The writers use this fact to their advantage when they set their story in such heavenly surroundings.

Then when I heard the music (piano only) I said to myself this is going to be a sad film, or may be overly sentimental.

As the story progressed, I sensed that here was a family whose members lived independent lives until the son comes home to die of AIDS. In this new situation the family is scarcely able to cope and they employ a nurse (Whoopi Goldberg) as a carer. There is a moving scene where the nurse virtually teaches the mother (Glenn Close) how to express her love towards her sleeping son. "Touch him" she says.

There are many scenes between the mother and son when thoughts about their respective lives are exchanged. It is as if they are getting to know each other for the first time. The dialogue in the film is mainly between mother and son. All the other characters while still important have much less to say.

The film has a gentle quality about it. All the characters repress their thoughts and feelings apart from an occasional outburst of frustration that tends to liven up the sad circumstances. We have seen films about dying AIDS victims before so there is nothing new here, except for the beauty of the setting. All those trees aflame in the sunset and an empty garden seat definitely accent the sadness suffered by the family.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Boy and his Mom
isaak-117 July 1999
Such a quiet and gentle film. All the action revolves around this family's domestic routines; meals served in the backyard overlooking the pond, wheelchair promenades down beautiful country roads and intimate conversations between mother and son basking in the gloaming (the last hour of daylight). It is during these moments that Close and Leonard absolutely shine. This is very much a story about a boy and his mom. All other relationships are secondary until the end of the film. Family relationships can be complicated, especially when one is dying. The stoic and reserved nature of the characters response to the gay son's health crisis is compelling.

A nice turn by Whoopi Goldberg as the live-in nurse who re-teaches the mother to physically care for and interact with her adult son.Pay special attention to the death scene (and I'm not really giving anything away here) and notice the characters breathing. It is a wonderful symbolic representation of one life ending and another being "reborn".
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1fortheroad13 May 2002
I watched this movie not too long ago, simply because I am a big fan of Glenn Close. However, I was throughly surprised at the depth of sadness portrayed in the film, and the closeness between Janet and her son Danny. I was touched when Janet sung "Oh Danny Boy", I thought it was a very good addition to the film. This movie brings up very important topics: death, and love for your family no matter what. I would definately recommend a person to watch this.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Moving Film
Cosette-227 September 1998
I rented "In The Gloaming" mainly because I am an avid fan of the brilliant young actor Robert Sean Leonard. However, I was happily surprised to see a film that not only highlights Mr. Leonard's acting talents at their finest, but also a film that was a touching and brutally real look at an imperfect family and their struggles to cope with having to be around one another while crisis and tragedy tear their family apart. I believe this film is a must-see for anyone who has ever been a part of a family that has been tormented by the demons of its members.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
This a deeply affecting film about reconciliation and death.
cjgillis9 March 2001
A son spends his last months at home while dying of AIDS. In doing so, he helps his family come to terms with his life, and brings his parents to an understanding of the unsaid things that caused them to drift apart over the years. This short movie expresses the deep and gentle love that tragedy reveals to those who live dutiful, busy lives.

Glenn Close played her role with a master's delicacy. Christopher Reeve used the beauty of sky, trees, and grounds surrounding the house where he filmed "In The Gloaming" with affecting skill. All of the cast and crew worked together to create a perfect small film.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Very good and very sad
Marc-10518 September 2007
I saw this film when it first aired on HBO and came across it recently on Logo. Logo added 28 minutes of commercials to make a 90-minute film, and what a slog those were to sit through.

So I went to Amazon to buy it, only to find out it wouldn't be available on DVD until last July, then September, and now November.

So this review is written a long time after seeing the whole thing.

Enough griping. This film is superb, though I speak with a bias toward sad movies. Christopher Reeve's direction is marvelous. He gets perfect performances from Robert Sean Leonard and Glenn Close as the son and mother. David Strathaim as the father is very good. Whoopi is good, but I thought her "love him" speech sounded forced.

The film's emotional impact is huge. There are three very sad moments: when Glenn Close sings "Danny Boy," when Danny dies, and when the mother and father embrace at the end. For me, Danny's death was the least sad of the three. Glenn Close's singing of "Danny Boy" is beyond perfect ... the way she can't sing the last word ... it rips me apart.

The scenery is so gorgeous. The pullback from the house at the end is very well done. The final credits are great with the song sung by Reeve's wife -- another teary moment -- except Logo ruined them.

Reeve was a great director.

(2014) I was going to post a review of the film, only to find I already had. I upped the rating from 9 to 10 stars. I just checked Amazon. It's still not available on DVD, only VHS. I don't get it.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Emotional tear-jerker
kel_har16 February 2000
For a 60-minute telefilm, HBO did an extraordinary job at presenting this moving and effective drama, thanks to its cast, its director, as well as the crew and those behind this production. It is rare that a telefilm can be produced effectively for at least an hour. Kudos to HBO!! It is well worth a look at.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A beautiful movie
malevista7 March 2010
A son dying of AIDS comes home to spend his final days with his family. What makes this movie so moving is the honest way in which the interpersonal relationships are explored. The son (Rober Sean Leonard) always had a close relationship with his mother (Glenn Close), but during the last months each reveals to the other things about themselves that had never been touched on before. The father (David Strathairn), on the other hand, had never been able to be close to his son, and envies his wife for her close relationship with him. The daughter (Bridget Fonda) resents the attention her brother had always gotten from their mother, and can't deal with his present situation. The acting is as good as it gets.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Brandy-2811 November 2002
I've seen this film a number of times, and time and time again, I get the same feeling and hope in my head - that not all parents (especially the father's) are quite like this family. The mother was cold up until she knew that whatever she did or said would not change the fact that her son was going to die.

The father.....I don't have the brain energy to talk about this _ _ _.

The father was not interested in the son, his life or happiness or anything about the boy for that matter - until the son was dead - then all of sudden it was all "can you please tell me what else my son wanted" - oh give me a friggin break. If he was at all interested he could of found out himself a few days before the son died.

Overall - a very good movie - but you might feel a little empty spot in your head or heart at the end of this movie.
2 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Bitter/Sweet mother-son relationship explored
This is a film appropriately named. Many of the exterior shots take place in the gloaming, that lovely space between sunset and the stars coming out. The colours are extraordinary - New England has never looked more lovely drenched in the colours of the seasons in which the film takes place, with a gorgeous windowed house overlooking it all.

This is a story about a family and the shifting of its dynamics when the son comes home to die of AIDS. Whoopi Goldberg (a very small part) is employed as a nurse and the mother (Glenn Close)attempts an exploration of getting to know her son. This is basically the plot.

David Strathearn in a role made for him, plays the father, a man unreconciled to his son's sexual orientation but still very much in love with his wife, a fact which escapes her until her son points it out.

There is an absolutely riveting scene of the mother singing his baby song to her son that had me in tears. It wasn't over sentimentalized in any way, the father overlooking the scene adds to the feeling of his distance from his wife and son. Beautifully done. If I had any fault, it was with the ending. A little too pat.

I would see this again. Glenn Close was never lovelier. 7 out of 10.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
No roaming in this 'Gloaming'
moonspinner551 December 2007
Glenn Close, looking elegant and angular (like an ivory sculpture), manages to bring some substance to this sentimental weeper about an AIDS-infected young man who returns to his estranged family's country estate to die. His repressed father and "yuppie" sister are infuriating stock figures, though the boy manages to clear the air with his mother, and their conversations have a sweet sensibility. This cable-made directorial debut from Christopher Reeve gleams with good taste; from the (annoying) Celtic music courtesy Dave Grusin--which ties in with the film's title--to the autumnal locations, Reeve and his producers leave nothing ruffled or out of place. Still, this scenario doesn't really satisfy us emotionally. The teleplay sidesteps intimate talk of gay relationships, politics or controversy of any kind. Even the proverbial 'former lover' is kept under wraps. At least 1985's not-dissimilar "An Early Frost" tried to step outside the box and give viewers something to ponder besides hello-and-goodbye hugs. Reeve stages one startling visual scene (the mother's nightmare), which is mainly of note because of its crassness. Reeve quickly reverts to form with a lovely following shot of Close standing outside in the rain, but this aberration does show that he was capable of something other than the proper, low-keyed blandness we get here.
2 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Auspicious directorial debut by Christopher Reeve
george.schmidt10 April 2003
IN THE GLOAMING (1997/MTV) *** Glenn Close, David Strathairn, Robert Sean Leonard, Bridget Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg. Christopher Reeve (shortly after his debilitating horse riding accident) directed this HBO Films story about a WASP family coming to terms with their gay son's decision to return home to die with dignity and decidedly to heal some old wounds. Effective acting especially Close as the mother and Leonard as her boy.
1 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews