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Originally made as separate films, two years apart, Terence Davies’ musical soap delicately captures the “poetry of the ordinary”.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.