After the recent success of High Fidelity, Liam sees director Frears back in his native England, making a film that plays to all his considerable strengths. Set in Liverpool’s Irish Catholic community, the new film is a beautifully realised and at time achingly tragic portrait of a typical working-class family in the 1930s. The father is a proud, stern yet loving parent who has no time for the local priest. He works in the shipyards; his wife tends the home; his daughter Theresa works in a rich Jewish household; and the very young Liam is a stuttering schoolboy. Frears portrays their struggle with respect and deep affection. His depiction of the Catholic upbringing which Liam receives
is both deeply subversive and startlingly funny.
When the Depression takes his job from him, Liam’s father is too proud to rely on the parish for support, even though
he has been paying church fees for years. As Communist sloganeering competes with the siren of the black-shirted fascists, he is soon caught up in a swirl of rhetoric and anger. Liam, grappling with childhood yearnings for the opposite sex, is told about the evils of temptation and tortures of Hell that await, while Theresa finds herself in an increasingly compromised position as the only breadwinner in the family.
Following hard on the success of High Fidelity, Liam proves that Frears has lost none of his ability to create deeply compassionate and socially conscious work. This is a superb piece of filmmaking.