Terence Davies (1945- ), filmmaker and writer, takes us, sometimes obliquely, to his childhood and youth in Liverpool. He’s born Catholic and poor; later he rejects religion. He discovers homo-eroticism, and it’s tinged with Catholic guilt. Enjoying pop music gives way to a teenage love of Mahler and Wagner. Using archival footage, we take a ferry to a day on the beach. Postwar prosperity brings some positive change, but its concrete architecture is dispiriting. Contemporary colors and sights of children playing may balance out the presence of unemployment and persistent poverty. Davies’ narration is a mix of his own reflections and the poems and prose of others.
User Reviews: Although I will proceed to contradict myself, this is one of those films that you will either hate or love. Over archive footage of Liverpool, Terrance Davies narrates his personal recollections and reflections of the city along with its history and changes from his birth onwards. It is a personal film for him no doubt because it is not so much of a "documentary" as it is a piece of poetry over images – it would not be out of place as an art installation somewhere (if it were structured and delivered differently). It is hard to review this because for some people the voice, the words and the images will combine to create a wonderfully personal experience that they are drawn into, more of an experience than just a film. However to other viewers (who will be unfairly told they "don’t get it" or "aren’t smart enough" and should "go back to Transformers 2") this will come over as pointless, annoying and right up itself.
And here is my contradiction, because I fell somewhere in the middle of this, wanting to love it but ultimately finding myself totally on the outside looking in. Throughout the whole film I was finding it sporadically interesting, whether in the footage or the narration there was stuff that stopped me getting bored. However I also had this niggling feeling that the film was being deliberately obtuse in what it was doing and that, in being so personal, Davies had forgotten that this was a film being sold to an audience, not just something he is making for free. By this I mean that there isn’t anything that offers the viewer an olive branch to get into it – if you don’t love it early then it will likely just leave you behind. At times the film does smack heavily of being pretentious for the sake of it and, while the negative voices and overly negative here, I can see the point of those that attack it as such.
Perhaps that is fine though, not every film will appeal to everyone and this is an art film that will always draw a small audience no matter where it is shown. I know many people loved it and believe me when I say that I did want to but somehow it just didn’t work for me. I was left feeling remote from the subject of any scene and, although some aspects still interested me, at worst it did come over as a little pretentious. Worth a look for something different but it is certainly not for everyone.