‘Following Sean’


In the thick of the free-loving freak show that was Haight Ashbury in 1969, a four-year-old boy named Sean offhandedly confessed to filmmaking student Ralph Arlyck and his movie camera that he liked to “smoke grass.” Knowing good material when he saw it, Arlyck edited his footage of the pot-smoking tot into a 15-minute short that became, along with Altamont and the Manson murders, a grim herald of the short-circuiting ’60s. Thirty years later, the filmmaker tracks down his subject, wondering whether he’s become a speed freak or a Wall Street banker, and is surprised to find a smart and sober electrician with a wry sense of humor. But the film, contrary to its bland title, isn’t merely about Sean; Arlyck, like fellow essayist Ross McElwee, prefers to work from the inside out, seamlessly weaving together his own story with Sean’s. Arlyck’s compulsion is to our great fortune. Patient and elegant, his film is a quietly devastating meditation on family, work, and the unrelenting passage of time.