‘Blush’ on Apple TV+ Is a Poignant, Beautiful Exploration of Grief and Loss

Glamour: Was making this film healing for you?

Joe Mateo: Oh, very much so. At first, I hesitated about it being too personal…but there was a turning point that happened…. I got to the point where I needed to talk about the importance of that scene [where the ethereal creature dies] and what it means. It made me look back to that moment where I lost Mary Ann and I was so overwhelmed by emotion. I couldn’t speak anymore, and I was sobbing uncontrollably. I remember putting my hands on my face, covering my face, and just thinking, Oh, no. I don’t want to do this. I’m making everybody feel so uncomfortable. And then I looked up, and everyone was crying with me. After that point I was like, I’m in a safe space. After that moment I opened up, and it was very therapeutic for me, that moment of catharsis.

Why did you set the movie in outer space? 

I had to look back to the genesis of the idea. I lost Mary Ann four and a half years ago from breast cancer, and that night I couldn’t breathe. It was very scary. I didn’t know what panic attacks were. And fortunately for me, I had my daughters around me at that time. I struggled to go back to work for several months, then I kept looking back to that moment where I realized Mary Ann was my air, and my kids saved me. I was inspired by that moment and not the loss, but mostly how my kids helped me through it. I really want to share that message…. And then thinking about where I can set this, it’s just obvious the mini planet without any atmosphere [would work]. 

Have your children seen the film? What did they think of it?

They were the first people who knew about the short. I had to pitch it to them, and during the making of it, we all were quarantined together. So they were very much a part of making it, because I would show them drawings and the progress. I remember them giving me notes. They’re my in-house tech support. Those kids are amazing with technology. 

What about Mary Ann’s loved ones?

They love it. One of her closest cousins, we took her to a screening. She had seen it on Apple TV+, but this was her first time seeing it on the big screen. She was very emotional…. I’m getting messages, too, from a lot of friends and relatives who didn’t even know I was making this film, and they’re very surprised, in a good way. Everyone’s very emotional and just thanking me for doing it and proud of me for sharing this story.

At the end of the film, there’s another crash landing. Who’s in the ship? 

It’s really the symbolism of hope. For me, I found someone specifically I can share my future with. Mary Ann is always going to be a part of me. It’s who I am. She made me a better person. I almost didn’t want to say who that person is in the ship because I want people to personalize it for themselves. Who is in that ship for them? It can be a great future where they use that ship and go off and find other planets and other people they can be with. So yeah. I just left it open.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned about your own life through making this project?

Just really, love. Appreciating people, my family, my loved ones who got me through it. As we went into production, it was amazing because I knew I was surrounded by people I love, with my kids. But as we moved on, as we grew, the circle of people surrounding me got bigger because of our crew who I learned to love. [The movie] made me better. It was very healing for me. It was very therapeutic. I’m a different person than when I started this short. I’m a better person now.

What do you hope people take away from this project? 

The message of hope and healing, at a time when I think we need that the most. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity

Christopher Rosa is the entertainment editor at Glamour. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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