When Eugene O'neill sold his play to the distributors, his condition was to not produce it during his lifetime. And while watching this film, you can only imagine the implications if it was.
Long Day's Journey into Night(1962) tells the story of a dysfunctional family. A family where mother is morphine addict and depressive, father is or rather once was a famous actor, older brother who tried to unsuccessfully follow the steps of his father and younger brother who is broke and is diagnosed with Consumption. Movie follows a day into their lives. But what a day it is !! There is a lot of bickering about many things of their life and it does bring a lot of skeletons out of the closet - Both the sons and mother think that their father is too stingy, they blame a lot of problems in their lives arose because of his unwillingness to spend like they would have controlled their mother's illness from going worse or younger son does not want to go to State Sanitarium just because it is cheap. Father thinks that the Younger son is too morbid for his own good and older son is loafer, drunken failure. Their mother thinks that the birth of second son is the reason of her deteriorating health and addiction and blames their father for her loneliness which arose from the house they are living in which she hates. Even two sons don't look straight into each others eyes.
Adaptation from O'neill's Pulitzer Prize winning play is quite apparent when you are watching actors play their parts. Whole setup is suitable for a play. Scenes are much longer than normal, it even has many lengthy monologues like you would have in a play. Most of the scenes have just a couple of characters. There are no special effects, no cut shots, no background music. Whole focus is on characters, their acting and dialogues. Well, considering Sidney Lumet directed it, it should not come as a surprise but this film has much more feel of a Play more than any of his other films. But then there comes the extra responsibility of fitting it to the screen, confining the whole action in one set and achieving the required momentum for the film with just the help of characters. It puts a lot more responsibility on actors and directors and under the able leadership of Sidney Lumet, they make it happen. Katherine Hepburn, as a morphine addict mother is just one shining example of it. She is AMAZING in it. She has a lot of - transformations as you can say when she comes and goes into her lucid moments. She is very bitter when she is out of her own but in the very next moment, she will apologize profusely for being so. And she does this with amazing clarity of character and unparallelled facial expressions. It's a treat to watch her play this character. Ralph Richardson does fine job himself as a patriarch of the family. His thick accent gives much more credibility to the old theater actor he is playing.
It is a kind of hard film to watch as whole script is sharp ups and downs of spirits and moods of all these volatile characters. This nature also makes it almost impossible for them to help each other out even if they want to. Every action starts with a good intention, but before it can reach its desired effect, their bitterness takes over. Sidney Lumet is clearly visible in many aspects of a film. Very much like 12 Angry Men(1957), whole movie takes place at a single location, their House. Very much like Fail-Safe(1964) and The Hill(1965), there is no background music and no special effects the whole time and whole focus is on characters. However, it does have a very slow pacing which can bore someone and whole feel of the movie does not help much either. But if you can sit through that, it definitely is an engaging story of how much explosive a day can be.
Rating(out of 5):