In 1969, Ralph Arlyck scored a minor festival hit with “Sean,” a 14-minute documentary about a four-year-old living in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood. The eponymous subject raised many eyebrows by running barefoot through the hippie-infested streets and freely speaking about smoking and eating marijuana.
For no clear reason, Arlyck decided to track down the child to see how his life progressed. He discovers the adult Sean Farrell enjoying a successful career as an electrician in the Bay Area. In the course of Arlyck’s follow-up interviews, Farrell brings a wife over from Russia, becomes the father of an adorable little boy, and flirts with filing patents on new inventions and returning to school to get a law degree (he has a degree in political science, but apparently he never used it for occupational pursuits).
However, the affable Farrell’s rather quotidian daily routine is obviously not compelling on his own to warrant a feature-length profile, so Arlyck casts his cinematic net very wide: Farrell’s parents (who divorced shortly after “Sean” was completed), his sister (a cleaning lady planning on a long-delayed college degree) and his grandparents (who were Communist Party organizers in the 1950s) are brought in.
But the stories of the Farrell are less than compelling, so Arlyck turns autobiographical by bringing his wife, sons and parents into the film. Can you see where this is going?
Indeed, the resulting production is a rickety mess that travels in multiple directions but never gets anywhere. Even Arlyck’s college-age sons openly deride him on camera for trying too hard to achieve a point. At one point, Arlyck’s wife moves back to her native France for a teaching gig, leaving the filmmaker at home with his unfinished flicks.
Towards the end of this film, Arlyck openly schemes to sell his ailing mother’s grand piano to help finance the post-production costs. It’s an obnoxious notion, to be certain, and it clearly details the lack of intelligence and planning that went into this confused and ridiculous home movie.