Distant Voices, Still Lives

Director: Terence Davies
Year Released: 1988
Rating: 2.5

A grim two-part portrait of working-class England in the middle of the 20th century: in the first ("Distant Voices"), Tony (Dean Williams, a stand-in for the director) along with his sisters Maisie (Lorraine Ashbourne) and Eileen (Angela Walsh) are subjected to constant physical and emotional punishment by their cruel father Tommy (Pete Postlethwaite), which they recall after he passes away; in the second ("Still Lives") they're all older, some of them are unhappily married and spend a lot of time hanging out in pubs (when not going to the movies or checking sports scores).  The first section is the strong part of the movie, with Postlethwaite beating the one sister with a broom and slapping around his wife Nell (Freda Dowie) - the reason for his awful behavior, although realistic, is never explored ... perhaps because (a.) it isn't from his perspective and/or (b.) children don't understand adult problems - while the last part almost feels like an afterthought (with War and Dad out of the way): there is too much singing and aimless wandering.  Still, Davies' free-form style is pretty poetic - it plays out like a hazily remembered dream - and I wonder if he read Truman Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms prior to making it.