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Starring Ian Hart, Claire Hackett, Anthony Borrows
Screenplay by Jimmy McGovern
Inspired by the book, The Back Crack Boy by Joseph McKeown
Directed by Stephen Frears

IN SHORT: For the arthouse. [Rated R for some nudity and language. 90 minutes]

Just what we need a week after the World Trade Center was destroyed is a movie about hate and mis-directed rage and the consequences thereof. The movie is called Liam. It comes from director Stephen Frears, best known in this country for more pleasing movies like High Fidelity and British middle-class art house type flicks like The Snapper. It is almost as if Frears, for a change, decided to make a movie which, though it has a point, is incredibly difficult to endure.

Our story is set in Liverpool, dead in the middle of the Great Depression. Liam (Anthony Borrows) is a 7-year-old boy who has an exceptional stuttering problem, compounded by an innate fear of the church in which is being raised, that being Catholic, with all of its icons and talk about burning in hell forever and a day and statues of leading, pierced, tortured, suffering Saviour named, well you know.

It is the feeling of his teacher, Mrs. Abernathy (Anne Reid), that Liam's problem with speaking is compounded by the fact that he has not yet made first Confession or first Holy Communion. His class at the Roman Catholic school he attends is being taught all the essential knowledge necessary to undergo those first religious steps, which means a lot of talk about sin and death and burning and torture and hell etc. and how every seeing you do not confess just drives that nail deeper into Jesus his hands. I swear if I had had to suffer through that kind of psychological torture I wouldn't be talking either. But then us members of the tribe have guilt programmed genetically, so we suffer enough in our own way as well.

Dad (Ian Hart), the worker at the local shipyard is facing major emasculation problems. Not only as the shipyard just been closed (and being Catholic in a Protestant country, makes it a bit hard to find a job) but his son and daughter are both working and putting food on the table. Daughter Theresa (Megan Burns) lies about her background to get a job as a maid with a rich family. The joke's on her because her employer is the Jewish family that happened to own the shipyard where father used to work, and they don't care about that. Because of her age she is also serving as a playmate for daughter Jean. As time goes on she will deal with the shame and guilt of lying, not only for lying to get the job but also because she has covered for the adulterous Mistress of the house.

All the while, Mum (Claire Hackett) is taking all of Theresa's "bonuses" to the Jewish pawnbroker so that she can get cash to put Liam in a nice suit for his first holy communion. So we forgot about Liam's guilt trip as well -- while Mrs. Abernathy is talking about sin, the boys in the back of the room are looking at an art book filled with paintings of naked women. Accidentally, Liam sees his mother naked and she doesn't like the girls in the books at all! Therefore there must be something wrong with mom -- not to mention the fact that he saw her naked. And oh boy is the priest going to have fun trying to get Liam to tell him all of this in the confessional because, as you may remember, Liam doesn't speak.

Liam ladles it on thick. Dad, who has lost all reason while he deals with unemployment and emasculation, decides to take action.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Liam, he would have paid . . .


Pay per view level but, if your preferences run to the far more intimate and serious fare that populates the arthouses, you'll more than likely want to see this. There's nothing wrong with Liam. It's won several Festival awards. But, given the release time, we're in far too dark a mood to sit through a tale this grim.

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