Directed by the versatile and perceptive Stephen Frears, "Liam" is a refreshingly modest, yet very affecting look at the bleak life of struggling class Catholics in 1930s Liverpool, as seen through the eyes of a 7-year-old boy.
Similar in setting, circumstance, atmosphere and sooty sense of humor to 1999's Irish poverty yarn "Angela's Ashes," but more a depiction of simple hardship than abject misery (no dying siblings or shoes resoled with old bicycle tires), the focus of the film is sweetly mischievous little Liam (Anthony Burrows). He's a cheerful, cherubic lad turned shy and quiet because of a wicked stuttering problem and the frightful reprimands of domineering Catholic school teachers who spend much more time browbeating the children with ominous dogma than they do exercising the three Rs.
"Your soul is filthy!" his harridan of a schoolmarm barks. "Sin drives the nails deeper into the hands of Christ!" bellows his ruddy zealot of a priest, who also comes knocking on the family's door every payday to requisition a cut of father's wages for the coffer.
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