Christopher Reeve's feature-length directorial debut, IN THE GLOAMING is a raw, heartfelt film about AIDS that works well with a bare-bones story line. The film was made for HBO, and later was released on home video.
Gay twentysomething Danny (Robert Sean Leonard) returns to his parents' home suffering from AIDS. His mother Janet (Glenn Close) is happy to see him, but his father Martin (David Strathairn) awkwardly struggles to communicate with his dying son. Janet and Danny bond, spending the fall days
learning about each other. Danny wonders why Janet never invited him up for holidays with his lover, Paul. They also recall the "gloaming," the time of day just before darkness. As he grows sicker, a nurse named Myrna (Whoopi Goldberg) arrives to help care for him. Danny's sister Anne (Bridget
Fonda), still simmering over perceived childhood neglect, voices her concern over Janet's all-consuming care for Danny. She also insinuates her belief that Janet's overly mothering attitude was the element that made him gay in the first place; Anne also admits a fear of bringing her son to visit
while Danny is there. Martin also reveals to Janet that he harbors a similar jealousy over her attentive attitude toward Danny.
Sitting outside, Janet touchingly sings "Danny Boy" to her son while Martin sadly listens. Danny later needles her about her loveless marriage to Martin, leaving her temporarily angry. After a particularly bad coughing spell, Danny and Janet realize the end is coming. As they sit in the gloaming
one night, he expires. The following day, Janet tearfully invites Paul to stay at their house for the funeral and Martin expresses his grief at not knowing his son.
At a running time of only 61 minutes, IN THE GLOAMING seems more of a quickie "Afterschool Special" about AIDS than a feature film. Though not tremendously uplifting, Christopher Reeve gives the picture a wistful intellect and depth that keeps it from turning unduly sappy. Will Scheffer's script
moves along slowly and quietly, with extra energy injected into the proceedings by Glenn Close, who excels in a well-designed role. Close nails the part of the emotionally shattered mother, exposing Janet's strengths, fears, and faults in a finely restrained performance. Robert Sean Leonard plays
Danny with a suitably downbeat attitude, while infusing the character with a sense of comic irony. Bridget Fonda as the jealous sister and David Strathairn as the preoccupied father are solid in their limited roles while Whoopi Goldberg's appearance as Nurse Myrna amounts to little more than a
cameo. The cinematography by Frederick Elmes (BLUE VELVET) perfectly captures the summery atmosphere of the upstate New York setting; Elmes' visuals work nicely in tandem with Dave Grusin's simple score. The most interesting casting note finds Reeve's four-year-old son Will playing a younger
version of Danny in the film's first sequence. (Adult situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: PG
- Review: Christopher Reeve's feature-length directorial debut, IN THE GLOAMING is a raw, heartfelt film about AIDS that works well with a bare-bones story line. The film was made for HBO, and later was released on home video. Gay twentysomething Danny (Robert Sean… (more)