Liam (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

You might call this film Angela's Other Ashes. It is the story of an impoverished Catholic family in Liverpool in the 1930's. The story is essentially seen through the eyes of a seven year old boy, and describes the events surrounding his First Communion. Although it functions as a coming of age film, it also stands as an effective comment on the nature of the poor life in that decade, focusing on the Catholic Church, anti-Semitism, and The Great Depression.

Liam, the young boy who lends his name to the title, is strongly influenced by the version of Catholicism taught in his school in his pre-communion instruction. The dogma centers on "don't" and "sin", rather than love and good deeds. Liam hears his teacher and the priest recount the infinite torments of hell in great detail. The film portrays these lectures with great accuracy, both in the content and the expressions used in these instructions. It brought back plenty of memories, albeit not really treasured ones. Does anyone use the expression "woe betide" except in Catholic catechism lectures? The church must have given priests and nuns some formulaic words to use in these procedures, because I was stirred by memories of the exact same phrases used in this film, and that phenomenon happened again and again, despite the fact that I attended Catholic schools 20 years later than these events, and in a different country.

At any rate, Liam's main problem in the sin department is that he has spied on his mother bathing. The only other naked women he has seen are in art books where the naked women have no pubic hair. Liam concludes, therefore, that his sin is causing his mother to grow unwanted body hair.


Claire Hackett did a full frontal scene in which young Liam (her son) saw her bathing.
Although Liam is not very much aware of the political environment, his family is. His father is gradually turning into a full-fledged Nazi, filling with rage that the Jewish owner of his factory has so much while he has so little despite having worked just as hard as his boss. His daughter works for the rich Jewish family, however, and is doing even better than she anticipated because of the extras she receives as a bribe to overlook the sexual infidelities she witnesses.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no meaningful features

You can see that three major forces are coming into conflict.
  • The daughter loves the Jewish family.
  • But the priest tells her that she must leave their employ because she is helping the lady of the house to sin.
  • The father comes to hate all Jews, especially this family, and is involved with anti-Semitic radicals.

I will not tell you precisely how these elements converge, except to say that it is tragic and makes the point that hatred comes back upon itself.

Excellent movie. Perfect period atmosphere. Interesting musical score, blending popular Irish ballads with pop songs of the era (Gershwin, e.g.). Highly detailed recollections which give off the feeling of autobiographical truth. Sad and touching.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, BBC 3/5.

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars .., it proved to be completely uncommercial, grossing only a million dollars in the USA


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. A very good film. It doesn't have as much crossover appeal as it might if it were less bleak and depressing. Although it is not an art movie or an intellectual exercise, it isn't really a mass audience entertainment film either. The tragic nature of the father/daughter plot and the unsparing bleakness of their lives will turn you off if you simply want a pleasant, unchallenging film. I thought it was charming, moving, and damned accurate.

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