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One of the things I loved most about Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast—which is now streaming on multiple platforms—is that it made me think of a handful of other movies that futz around in a similar neighborhood: the one where memory and childhood cross paths. Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun came to mind, as did John Boorman’s tremendous Hope and Glory, and even (however glancingly) Cinema Paradiso.

But the movie I thought of the most was Terence Davies’ swooning The Long Day Closes from 1992 (streaming on The Criterion Channel). It really is the perfect DG-kind-of-movie: nothing happens! It’s got maybe thirty lines of actual dialogue, a handful of vintage pop songs (who’s ready for “Tammy”?) and many, many scraps of vintage film dialogue (it lifts things from movies as disparate as The Magnificent Ambersons and Meet Me in St Louis), all woven together to connect and contextualize an impressionistic series of mid-1950s childhood memories. 

I’m being (I’m sure maddeningly) vague when it comes to what it’s really about (sex, religion, class, family … in other words, it’s about everything), but to give away any of it specifically would be to ruin it. I’ll leave you to open this box of chocolates on your own. It really is gorgeous—though if you’re looking for a linear plot of any kind, you’re probably better off staring at your sleeping cat in a cardboard box in your living room. 

The film seems so, so slight while you’re watching it, and then during the final scene—which is nothing but four minutes of clouds rolling by as Pro Cantione Antiqua sings the title song—everything that came before suddenly feels absolutely, heartbreakingly enormous. You’ll never forget it.

Then go pony up the twenty bucks for Belfast. There’s less Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds in it—usually a bad sign—but it’s terrific too.

About The Author

DG Strong took up knitting in 2014. He lives in Nashville with his sister, her rat terrier and a hound dog named Opal. He has a blog of drawings and faintly ridiculous rambling called The Psychopedia—there are worse ways to spend your afternoon.


  • How did you watch The Long Day Closes? Not on YouTube or Apple movies

    • I found the DVD at my public library. The library also has Belfast on order (there are already five people ahead of me on the reserve list).

    • It’s streaming on the Criterion Channel.

      • Ta

  • After reading your review, I am afraid to watch the movie. It was so serious,beautiful and elegant I would have had to check who wrote it until the perfect and droll cat analogy. But I will. Hopefully it will be as good as you!

  • I’d forgotten about this film. I’m 10 years younger than Terence Davies, but grew up in the same part of Liverpool. It could almost have featured my Grandma’s house, and our family gatherings, it looked so familiar. Thanks for reminding me, I’ll have to watch it again.

    • Thanks for this! We have the Criterion Channel, and I can never decide what to watch. Everything is so serious on there. Good but not easy to watch.

  • I guess I’ll be staring at an empty box then, since my cat died a month ago. Did you mean that to be as insulting as it sounded?

    • A cat asleep in a box has more plot than this movie does; I thought that was a pretty controversy-free way of saying it. But I’m sorry about your kitty.

    • You have my condolences for your loss, but a) it’s weird that you would think maybe DG would know your cat died, and thought he’d get in a little poke…..? and b) objectively, it wasn’t insulting at all. That’s an odd line to interpret as an insult.

      • I didn’t think he would know my cat died, I probably should have left that out. Whether or not my cat died, it was a pretty dismissive remark aboutanyone who didn’t agree with him.

    • Oh gosh I’m sorry for your loss. Our pets are so much of our daily joy.

  • Also, I took piano lessons for 1 year, and used to plod through this sheet music while singing along (badly, obviously, and loudly if I know me). My poor family, I can just imagine the eye-rolling that must have been going on behind my back.

  • Elegiac.

    Thank you.

    I started watching and quickly realize that would best be done in quiet, empty house. I will find that moment. And you really cannot knit to this. It is way too visual. And Orson Welle’s Magnificent Ambersons..

  • I recently found The Tender Bar on Amazon Prime. Another story about growing up and families and how resilient people can be. Loved it.

  • Just watched Belfast last night. Loved it! Thanks for the other recommendations.

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