dir Stephen Frears scr Jimmy McGovern
with Ian Hart, Clare Hackett, Anthony Borrows, Megan Burns, David Hart, Anne Reid, Russell Dixon, Julia Deakon, Andrew Schofield, Jane Gunett, David Carey, Gema Loveday
release UK 23.Feb.01; US 21.Sep.01
BBC 00/UK 1h31 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Looking up to Dad. Little Liam (Borrows) watches carefully as his father (Ian Hart) faces the challenges of the day...
Hard times in working class England during the Depression; Liam is remarkably well-made, but haven't we seen this before? The title character is a precocious, stuttering 7-year-old in an Irish Catholic family in 1930s Liverpool. Life isn't too bad for them because Dad (Ian Hart) has work, as do Liam's teenaged brother and sister (David Hart and Burns), while Mam (Hackett) keeps the house running with energetic, loving efficiency. But as Liam prepares for his first communion, he struggles with what he perceives as mortal sin--not helped by the hellfire-and-damnation pronouncements of his teacher (the wonderful Reid) and priest (Dixon). And then Dad loses his job.

With a script by McGovern (Priest, Hillsborough) we know the story is going to turn very dramatic indeed. And as the Great Depression merges with the rise of socialism and fascism in Europe, this little family gets caught up in the events in a deeply moving way. The actors are superb, especially the feisty Hackett and the troubled Burns (in a remarkable debut); Ian Hart is terrific as ever, although I couldn't help but feel he was slightly miscast--too young to play the father of teenagers. Very like Angela's Ashes, the film has a cute little boy at the centre; although no great shakes as a child actor, Borrows is a charming, adorable, effective presence. In the end, the fine cast, solid production design and thoughtful dramatic power of the story make the film worth seeing. But there's nothing earth-shatteringly new here.

[15--themes, nudity, brief language] 28.Nov.00

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Michael Cowan, UK: "I have to say I though it was great. It was an alternate type of film viewing, with a very inspirational message running throughout. All the actors and actresses were extremely good and talented. However I feel by far the most talented and outstanding actress of them all was Gema Loveday. She played her part extremely well and is obviously the most talented actress. She is destined to be a star and I believe some day in the not too distant future she will be one of the biggest stars of all time." (26.Mar.01)

kevin dowd, UK: "the film was good but the performance of Gema Loveday was the biggest and best outcome of the whole project. plus she is really gorgeous and also talented and has what it takes to become a star of the future." (9.Jul.04)

2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall