Depression era Great Britain is not a happy place. Liam most resembles Angela's Ashes. Both deal with working class families trying to deal with poverty. Both are exceedingly dark movies, in tone and look, yet they each have their own glimmer of hope for something better. While the character of Liam (Anthony Burrows) gives a strong performance, his cuteness is not enough of an anchor to propel the story forward. Liam is more the story of a family disintegrating under various pressures, and their struggles to work things out. Each member of the family is dealing with his/her own problems, and they do not realize that in order for them to solve them quickly, they need to deal with them together.

Liam is the latest movie from Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, The Hi-Lo Country), a director who enjoys jumping from one genre to another, without never losing a sense of quality and commitment. Working off a script by Jimmy McGovern (Heart, Priest), Frears provides a slow assault of the tribulations of Liam's family, providing some social commentary along the way. Dad (Ian Hart, Aberdeen, Spring Forward) worked at the docks until lack of business cost him his job. Frustrated, Dad lashes out at any group he can. Jews and foreigners are his primary targets. He is not truly a racist, he is just looking for somebody to blame. Mam (Claire Hackett, Gallowglass) is doing what she can to keep her dignity, yet provide her children with clothes and food.

Liam has a stuttering problem and is approaching his first communion. His teacher and priest lay the non-stop Catholic guilt trip onto Liam and his classmates, exacerbating Liam's nervousness. Everything that Liam does takes on new significance to him in light of these new religious revelations. He feels that any little sin will cause him to forever burn in hell. Meanwhile, Liam's sister Teresa (Megan Burns) goes to work for a well-off Jewish family. She takes the food they cast aside that accepts their gifts of clothes, but feels extremely guilty. Things get worse when she begin aiding the lady of the house in covering her affair from her husband.

The movie is dark, the family lives in a cramped apartment, and there is a general feeling of despair. The happiest moment occurs at the beginning, when the children watch their parents dancing in a bar. The cast as a whole does a good job conveying the pain of the family. Burrows in particular is surprising, since the Frears calls on him to do a lot and he succeeds. He is not the adorable kid thrown into movies to generate sighs from the audience. He is an actor who has a role to portray. But for all the intense performances and drama, Liam is never able to generate the genuine emotion that Frears wants from his audience.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated R for some nudity and language.

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