Following Sean

Watch Following Sean

"The more things change, the more we're not the same"
  • NR
  • 2004
  • 7.1  (804)
  • 64

In Following Sean (2005), filmmaker Ralph Arlyck returns to San Francisco to catch up with Sean Farrell, a boy he first met in 1968 when Sean was only four years old. At the time, Arlyck was a graduate student living in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, and he was struck by the precociousness of Farrell, who lived in the same apartment building. Arlyck interviewed Sean for a short film, Sean, which caused a stir when it aired on PBS in 1970. The film, which featured the young Farrell smoking a cigarette and discussing his thoughts on sex and drugs, landed Arlyck a spot on The Dick Cavett Show and made him a minor celebrity.

Now, more than 30 years later, Arlyck sets out to find out what happened to Sean, who's never far from his thoughts. Unsure how to approach his subject, he starts by interviewing members of Sean's extended family in San Francisco and then tracks down Sean himself, who's now in his mid-30s and living in Manhattan. Sean is initially hesitant to talk to Arlyck, but eventually agrees to let the filmmaker follow him around as he goes about his daily life.

What ensues is a fascinating portrait not only of Sean, but of San Francisco and New York in the 21st century. Arlyck intercuts footage of Sean going to work at his job in a software startup, playing in a band, and hanging out with friends with scenes from his own life in both San Francisco and New York. We see him smoking pot on the rooftop of his apartment building, reminiscing about the "good old days" in Haight-Ashbury, and reflecting on the impact that Arlyck's original film has had on his life.

Arlyck also includes footage from his original film, which is jarring in its contrast to the scenes from Sean's life today. In one particularly memorable sequence, we see Sean as a young boy playing with toy guns, while in the next shot, we see him as a grown man programming software. Arlyck uses this juxtaposition to explore questions of identity and how we change over time.

As the film progresses, Arlyck begins to explore his own relationship to Sean and to the city of San Francisco. He interviews former classmates and professors, many of whom have left the city in search of greener pastures. He also talks to current residents, who bemoan the skyrocketing rents and gentrification that have transformed the city since Arlyck first arrived in the late 1960s.

Throughout the film, Arlyck uses his interviews with Sean and others to explore broader themes of memory, nostalgia, and the passage of time. He asks Sean what he thinks of his younger self, and whether he feels like he's changed as a person. He talks to his own friends and family about their memories of San Francisco, and reflects on how the city has changed not only physically, but also spiritually.

Ultimately, Following Sean is a deeply personal and highly engaging film that manages to be both a portrait of a fascinating individual and a meditation on the nature of time and memory. Arlyck's skill as a filmmaker is evident throughout, as he weaves together a wide variety of sources and creates a compelling narrative that will leave viewers thinking long after the film has ended.

Following Sean is a 2004 documentary. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.1 and a MetaScore of 64.

Following Sean
Where to Watch Following Sean
Following Sean is available to watch free on Pluto TV. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, The Roku Channel and Amazon. Some platforms allow you to rent Following Sean for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
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  • IMDB Rating
    7.1  (804)
  • Metascore