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Thursday, November 13, 2008

LIAM (2000)

Stephen Frears, the most unassuming of master directors, brings intelligence & technical fluidity to this overly-familiar family drama set in a fading British industrial town during the depth of the ‘30s depression and the rise of radical political ‘isms.’ Told largely, but not exclusively, through the eyes of the entirely winning seven yr-old son who’s afflicted with a terrible stutter, the story first hits the expected warm & fuzzy notes (booze, sex, tough-love parents, the absurdity of a strict Catholic schooling), before turning remarkably dark and compelling when Dad (Ian Hart) loses his job, his pride and his bearings. In a lacerating perf, Hart disappears inside rantings and xenophobic violence as the quicksand of historical movements unhinge his better nature. But neither he nor Frears can do anything with the disastrous twist ending which all too conveniently turns to cheap & tidy theatrical tricks to round things up. It sours the entire film.

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