Cinema as escapism is as true a reason for absorbing art as any other. Devouring films, books, music and anything else is as incredible as it gets. The Long Day Closes pairs a working-class boy and the movies as not just a necessary extension of one another, but a warm sensation that keeps bad feelings at bay. The palace of dreams and magic, the escape to another world. It is what artsy farts will big up as a revolution. Stephen King said it of books. Portals to other worlds. Movies are too. The Long Day Closes depends so significantly on that crux, that vision of cinema as escapism. Art as escapism, as a broader approach, but Terence Davies is content to explore the impact of moving pictures.
It is the desperation to visit the cinema. Begging and pleading his way to eleven pence, Bud (Leigh McCormack) uses the film as escapism. He is one of many to do so. Visualising the struggle he has in getting such money, that working-class angle is brought to the screen impressively. He is not in squalor, but he is never close to luxury or living the high life. Worked over as an inherent struggle, the inevitable reward of a gesture that may feel small to us is a moving and impressionable one for the young boy at the heart of this feature. It is that youthful joy and simplicity, paired with the post-war havoc that defined England for so long that makes The Long Day Closes so compelling. It has its iconography well-realised and its characters deep. They are representatives of the Liverpudlian working class in the 1950s, not caricatures.
Such a difference is through the slight gestures and larger moments. The likeable nature of this family comes, inherently, from their attitude to their surroundings. Not just their work, but how they understand others as well. Kids kicking about in the rain-swept streets, bothering passers-by for a lift home, it is the ambience and the feeling this creates that Davies adapts so thoroughly well. The spirit of the times is effective, controlled spectacularly well by the welcoming performances found within. Realism is at the core of The Long Day Closes because it provides such a breath-taking launch for what beauty cinema can hold. Its underlying subtext is effective, nurtured well, but entirely optional. Davies wishes to keep the love of cinema alive and does so marvellously.
A delightfully moving piece that has all the throes of the British working-class intact and alive. But beyond that, even for those that were not a part of this style of living, either temporarily or permanently, The Long Day Closes experiments with our feelings as individuals. How did we feel on our first trip to the cinema? Our impressionable, young minds were shaped by the art we connected with, yet at the time it did not strike us as more than enlightening, incredible escapes from the humdrum lifestyle we plodded on through. That is still the magic of moviemaking, and there is an inherently personal angle that may not work for many audience members. But that is the risk we take as movie-goers, and the beauty of it too. The Long Day Closes is as fulfilling a film as it is a reminder of how lucky we are to be surrounded by art, entertainment and the great escapisms that so many offer, often without thanks for their efforts. Davies needs thanks, not just for conveying the magic of the cinema experience, but for rekindling the feelings that long lay dormant.