Liam

Liam
Directed by Stephen Frears
(Ian Hart, Claire Hackett, Anthony Borrows, David Hart)
Rated: R

A fired man faces his son in front of the gates of his closed shipyard. As a maid, a girl steals leftovers from her employer to feed her family. A mother sends her son to the pawnshop with her coat for money to buy food.

These images of poverty and despair are only a few of the tragic sights director Stephen Frears (High Fidelity) captures in Liam, a story about a family and their descent into poverty in 1930’s England.

Liam is arguably the best film of 2001 that, likely, no one will ever have the opportunity to see. As an independent release, Liam‘s sin is abandoning the format of typical Hollywood productions. There are no stars, no chases, and no dramatic speeches to provide sound bites. It is not the product studio executives would ever be willing to put money into, and thus will spend its existence doomed to the art house, surprising the few that manage to track it down.

Essentially, Liam is a sad story about a little boy defenseless against the world. Liam (Anthony Borrows) attends Catholic school (a religious indoctrination attacked beautifully by Frears), and is taught to feel shame about everything in his life. He watches his father (Ian Hart) lose his job, his family slowly drift deeper into the world of financial distress, and worries frantically about his immortal soul.

As last year’s Requiem For A Dream portrayed the physical destruction of four people addicted to drugs, Liam paints an equally sobering image of a family of five slowly self-destructing. Liam, however, is far more haunting. The plight of this boy, his parents, his brother and sister is not due to any decision they make, but rather to a world they cannot change. It seems only inevitable that the family finally collapses mentally, reacting in fear, anger, sadness and violence — their only solace found at the church. On the forefront, as our country faces the threat of economic deterioration, Liam is no longer about that distant world of poverty most Americans are fortunate enough to know nothing about. For many, it is a story that will hit close to the heart –reminding some of the fear that they lived with as a child, the fear many now have as parents and imparting a sense of gratitude to those who never knew of such struggles.

-Steven Snyder