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Liam
Liam
Actors: Anthony Borrows, Ian Hart, Claire Hackett, David Hart, Megan Burns
Director: Stephen Frears
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
R     2002     1hr 30min

Tells the story of a seven-year-old boy growing up in liverpool during the 1930s. As he prepares to make his first communion young liam tries to make sense of the complex and unsettled world around him a world that is abou...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Anthony Borrows, Ian Hart, Claire Hackett, David Hart, Megan Burns
Director: Stephen Frears
Creators: Colin McKeown, David M. Thompson, Martin Tempia, Michael Andre, Sally Hibbin, Tessa Ross, Jimmy McGovern
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Lions Gate
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/12/2002
Original Release Date: 01/01/2000
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2000
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Liverpool in the 1930s: Depression: and an Adorable Kid
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 07/07/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"After critically praised "High Fidelity," director Stephen Frears came back to his homeground with "Liam," which traces a family living in Liverpool during the time of the 1930s, immediately after the Great Depression. Though, with justification, some people pointed out the resemblamce between this one and "Angela's Ashes," you must know that "Liam" is set in Liverpool, England while the other in Ireland. So it is very suitable that "Liam" cast Ian Hart as Dad of the family because Liverpool-born actor once played a very credible portrait of John Lennon. But you may now remember him as Prof. Quirrell in "Harry Potter." Whichever you are, he totally remodelled himself, to become this father of 7-year-old Liam, whose stuttering sometimes works for his advantage in this hard times of Depression.The film follows the life of Liam's family members, each of which strrugles to live under conditions of life that gradually get harder. Liam goes to a Catholic school where he is taught about the hell and its fire; his elder sister Teresa starts a job of a housemaid in a rich Jewish family, where she inspite of herself helps to conceal the mother's affair from her husband; and Liam's father, who lost his job at factory, resorts to entering the membership of radical political party. It seems at first sight that the film is dark, grim, and somber to put off many of you, but it shouldn't. The fact is, thanks to the fast-paced editing of the film, and very sly humors of Jimmy McGovern (of controvertial "Priest"), which include ones with sexual nature -- little Liam had to witness his mother's naked body accidentally, and thinks he has committed a sin --the film is always watchable. You may call it a light-weight work from Frears (running time is about 90 minutes), but it has good acting all around, convincing production designs, and most of all Anthony Borrow's adorable Liam, which itself is worth your money. He has no previous acting experience, but you won't believe it after seeing his face.Also good is Ian Hart, as always he is. But his final act as Dad, which is very drastic and melodramatic, looks out of tune, and certainly many of you might feel disappointed (and I was too). But I know a Japanese reviewer who pointed out that final conclusion shows an irony -- while Liam himself is terribly afraid of being burnt in hell, it is not he that receives that fate. Is the ending a right one? Please judge it for yourself.Very gripping drama about a family in Liverpool, "Liam" tells you a thing or two about living there at that time, and influece of religion on the children. You may wonder why Teresa had to say "I'm sorry" while it is Dad that should say so. It is thus always engaing, and thought-provoking. If you didn't like "Angela's Ashes" (which I liked), you may go for it."
Fear and the repressive nature of Catholicism
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 08/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"1930's Liverpool during the Depression was not a great place to be. True, the war would change all that, but for the Sullivans, an Irish Catholic family it's a time of cruel hardship, especially when one gets unemployed. Imagine the dread that fills one's guts when the fellow at the head of the line opens his pay packet, only to find a slip of paper. He then tells the guy behind him that the factory's closed, with the news filtering down the line. Well, that's what happens to Pa Sullivan.

Fortunately, the oldest son, Con, finds work, as does Teresa, but for the most part, the father's loss of self-respect at not being able to provide for his family creates tension between he and the rest of the family. He's too proud to bribe the gaffer (foreman) with a drink at the pub, so that he is one of the few allowed to work. But when he does, the gaffer passes him over, which further destroys his pride. And there seems some resentment over the fact that his children can find work, but not he.

Liam, the youngest, has to undergo the twin Catholic rituals of first confession and first communion. Like the rest of his peers, he is given the fire and brimstone version of hell. The instructor, Ms. Abernathy, tells them how their souls are filthy and only with their first confession will they be pure enough to receive first communion, otherwise it's sacrilege. And the priest tells them to imagine the hottest fire one's ever seen, because hell is worse than that.

Liam is also affected with a pronounced stutter resulting in an intense hissing "s," as if the words are trying to escape his mouth but are trapped. At times, he repeats what his mother tells him when sent to the pawnbroker, with instructions of "seven and a tenner." However, when he is asked the price, his mouth betrays him. He's a nice and sweet kid, very quiet, but also puzzled. He catches sight of his mother stepping out of the bath, then sees the Vermeer nudes, which are bare all over. Why the difference? The conclusion he draws, well, one can't blame him for his lack of knowledge, but it turns out to be amusing.

The religious and class tensions of 1930's Liverpool are fully at play here. During a New Year's party, two women, one Catholic, one Protestant, get into a singing, then fighting match that leads to both of them leaving the party. Another is Teresa, the daughter and middle child, a girl just entering her teens, who takes on a housekeeping job for the Samuels, a Jewish family. Ms. Samuels is a kindly lady and bribes the young girl for keeping quiet about her male lover. However, to take on the job, Teresa says she's not Catholic.

Catholics really had it hard given the sacraments they honour. Indeed, Pa Sullivan rages at how "Jesus Christ has made us skint," meaning how they get broke spending money needed for more basic necessities on the suits, ties, and frocks to be worn on special occasions to make young boys and girls good and presentable Catholics. That leads to his blaming the pawnbrokers, who are Jewish, for profiting on the poverty-stricken Catholics, a wry irony considering the Jews' perceived stigma as Christ-killers on the part of Christians. But maybe Liam's stutter and naivete regarding the paintings reveal the repressive nature of Catholicism, and how one can't learn or think due to religious bias, which in turn leads to class conflict.

I learned in history that anti-Semitism has a latent/manifest dynamic. During economically troubling times or times of catastrophes, like the Black Death, the Jews were blamed. Small wonder then that the father becomes a willing follower of Sir Oswald Moseley's BUF, the British Union of Fascists, and makes the Jews the scapegoats for his troubles.

Ian Hart (Pa) who played Professor Quirrel in Harry Potter, gives a lot of depth of a man who loses his self-respect during a time of troubles, and is desperate to prove that it's not his fault. But the other players are well-cast, especially Anthony Burrows as Liam and Megan Burns as Teresa."
1930's era seen through the eyes of a stuttering little boy
tracy | santa cruz, US, Canada | 10/15/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Great 30's feel of hardships, survival and hopes- all seen through the eyes of a truly innocent, little boy. The movie had the unique ability to make the viewer feel apart of the era/movie. Oh and how one feels for Liam who is cursed with a stutter at the most unfortunate moments. The Catholic religion is portrayed rather accurately for the times and one can really feel the oppression on the little souls of the school children; let alone of the struggling adults. The father takes a dissaterous spiral and the mum is just trying to hold everyone together and still be a God loving Catholic.
I believe the movie could have been as good as Life is Beautiful, Billy Elliot and Il Postino if only it had been an hour longer- I would have sat that long to have the supporting characters and the story developed more. The accents are a bit trying at times but not as hard to understand as Billy Elliot. I would pay to see this again, after all who can resist Liam reciting "Seven and a ton a, Seven and a ton a... my mum says seven and a ton a". Running time aprox 1.5 hours."
Wonderful and Touching Film
S. McIntyre | San Antonio, TX USA | 05/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This little known and acknowledged film is a touching and thought provoking work. A true gem.It is a story of a catholic seven year old boy going by the name Liam in 1930's Liverpool. It is a view into the life and times of the financially and humanely poor conditions of that age. Liam and his family suffer much in this film and we watch, being drawn in to understand and enjoy the characters and their lives. For those who concern themselves with moral content for children:
This film is rated R, containing some nudity (though it is tasteful) and some small amounts of adult language. The subject matter and the story is obviously not all rosey and smiles either. There is some violence in this film that forces notice."