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Liam

By Luisa F. Ribeiro | Posted

Somber in tone and disquieting in substance, Liam proves a penetrating, often poignant, never sentimental glimpse into the dire poverty and the bitterness of ignorance and bigotry in the life of an Irish-Catholic family in Depression-era Liverpool. Far more effectively than Alan Parker did in his hollow screen version of Angela's Ashes, director Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liasons, The Grifters, High Fidelity) tells his bleak tale (written by Jimmy McGovern) chiefly through the eyes of 7-year-old Liam (Anthony Burrows, in a strong performance), who is rattled to his toes by the church's admonition of the hell that awaits him lest he fall prey to sins that he is not even sure how to define. It is also a tale of fury felt by Liam's father (Ian Hart), who enthusiastically embraces fascism and anti-Semitism as antidotes to unemployment and frustration. While the story at times veers toward the melodramatic (it's at its best when stumbling along with Liam's uncertain grasp of the world), Frears continually returns to the power of small moments between a family and villagers struggling to survive in a world teetering on madness.

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