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Distant Voices, Still Lives Review

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A family does its best to get by in 1940s Liverpool.

★★★★

Originally made as separate films, two years apart, Terence Davies’ musical soap delicately captures the “poetry of the ordinary”. Piecing together the life of a working-class Catholic family in 1940s Liverpool, William Diver and Patrick Duval’s fusty photography conjures up the bleak austerity and reinforces the hushed hesitancy of a household never sure of father Pete Postlethwaite’s mood.

The soundtrack also shifts between melancholy and optimism. But while the restless perspective can seem self-conscious, the action is so rooted in a precise time and place that it always feels like authentic autobiography rather than anything more archly artistic. A gem.

Exposing the bleak reality of a supposedly more innocent time, this inspired blend of musical and melodrama succeeds in being both fond and forlorn, artistic and authentic.