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:: Liam

The film opens on New Years Eve, the air filled with the festivities of the season and the promise of the coming year. It is however set in an Irish Catholic community of Liverpool in the 1930’s and circumstances for seven-year-old Liam (Anthony Burrows) and his family are about to take a turn for the worse.

Liam’s family are a tight unit, working together in order to survive. Liam’s Dad (Ian Hart) works as a welder in the dockyards and his Mum (Claire Hackett) stays home and makes the pennies go as far as possible. Con (David Hart) and Teresa (Megan Burns), Liam’s older brother and sister are also out earning a living to help keep the family going. Despite their meagre surroundings, the family are happy enough, that is until Liam’s Dad loses his job.

Although the family are close and would do anything for each other, they don’t tell each other much. Instead the priest is the means by which they make all their confessions and seek all their advice. This adherence to the Catholic religion and the structures it imposes comes at an unfortunate time for Liam. Just as his father is sacked and his parents are fighting continually at home, Liam is about to undertake his first Holy Communion and therefore also his first confession. Days before his confession Liam accidentally sees his mother naked which turns his life upside down. In some of the funniest moments of the film, Liam’s school teacher Mrs Abernathy (Anne Reid) and the local priest (Russell Dixon) tell his class graphic and horrifying tales of “what happens to sinners”, that would make anyone’s imagination run wild. Liam’s seven-year-old mind reels with all these images as he grapples with having to tell the priest his sin. To make matters worse, Liam has a stutter which means it takes him a good while to get even the easiest of words out of his mouth.

Meanwhile, Liam’s father is unable to get any sort of work and with this, his pride, self esteem and dignity slide to an all time low as his children’s income is all there is to support the family and that isn’t enough. He starts looking for someone else to blame and this blame is directed mainly at the Jewish. Much to his family’s despair, Liam’s father, in a need to regain a sense of power, starts associating with a fascist group, the black shirts. This, just as his daughter starts working for a Jewish family (David Carey, Jane Gurnett, Gema Loveday), the father of whom owns the ship yard that made him redundant in the first place. This leads to a tragic turn of events.

The film is a realistic and touching portrayal of life in the times and circumstances of Liam’s family. This is due to the screenplay being written by Jimmy McGovern, a prolific and talented film and television writer. He has said about Liam:

“I’ve written bigger things than Liam, more important things too. But I’ve not written anything so deeply felt and personal.”

And this shows throughout the film. Liam is a beautiful story of life through a seven-year-old’s eyes contrasted with the world going on around him. Adult problems are tenderly and often humorously juxtaposed against the fear of being young and inexperienced in the ways of the world. The period is recreated to minute detail and shrewdly reflects the melting pot of religion, politics and class in Europe that characterised the anti- Semitism of the twentieth century. Liam is a well worth a look for every reason a film should be, an intimate and beautifully executed story, moving performances by every member of the cast and a little boy that you will fall in love with.