The lives of an English working-class family are told out of order in a free-associative manner. The first part, "Distant Voices", focuses on the father's role in the family. The second part, "Still Lives", focuses on his children.
The second film in Terence Davies's autobiographical series ('Trilogy', 'The Long Day Closes') is an impressionistic view of a working-class family in 1940s and 1950s Liverpool, based on Davies's own family. The first part, 'Distant Voices', opens with grown siblings Eileen (Angela Walsh), Maisie (Lorraine Ashbourne) and Tony (Dean Williams), and their mother (Freda Dowie) arranged in mourning clothes before the photograph of their smiling father (Pete Postlethwaite). Soon after, the family poses in a similar tableau, but for a happier occasion - Eileen's wedding. While relatives sing at her reception, Eileen hysterically grieves for her dad, and recalls happy times of her youth. Tony and Maisie's memories, however, are more troubled. Davies intermingles and contrasts scenes like the family peacefully lighting candles in church with the brutal man beating his wife and terrorizing his young children. In 'Still Lives', set (and filmed) two years later, the siblings are settled in life, ...Written by
Freda Dowie had already been in Terence Davies' thoughts for the role of the Mother after he had seen her in several TV roles. One day, when looking at potential casting, Davies asked a colleague to throw him a copy of Spotlight for Actresses and it fell open on the floor, at Freda Dowie's page. He considered this a good omen and confirmed the casting. See more »
That's all we need, you singing. As if life isn't purgatory enough without that.
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One of the best British films of the last twenty years
Terence Davis moving, harrowing and elegantly artistic masterpiece is one of the few Britsh films of recent years to embody a distinctly British identity. The plot involves a family wedding in working class Liverpool just after the second world war and the various episodes in the family's past dealing with their sometimes brutal and disturbed father. The beauty of the film lies in the deeply artistic composition of various shots, coupled with Davis' enduring compassion and understanding for the chararcters, especially the father played brilliantly by Pete Postlethwaite. It is an incredible evocation of family life and even though at times it makes for hard viewing, this is a film that must be seen.
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