Distant Voices, Still Lives

Added to your love list
0 Love It
Superlatives are in short supply to describe the emotional power of Terence Davies’ fractured chronicle of the life of a working-class family in 1940s and ’50s Liverpool. Drawing on his own childhood, Davies turns his film on the pivot of a brutal patriarch’s death and his daughter’s subsequent marriage, so splitting his film into two episodes (which he filmed a year apart). The first, ‘Distant Voices’, is a set of difficult memories of childhood fear and wartime suffering that drift in and out of the wedding day, while its companion, ‘Still Lives’, portrays the life of a happier widow, her two daughters, a son and their friends who gather in pubs, sing and are beginning to suffer their own marriages. Pete Postlethwaite is Tommy Davies, the violent, damaged and taciturn father; Freda Dowie is Mrs Davies, his stoic wife and the suffering lynchpin of the family; and Angela Walsh is Eileen, the daughter whose marriage blows a gust of fresh air into the stale misery of her family but also threatens to follow the same tragic pattern as her parents.

Davies’ storytelling is a unique joy. Images evoke family photos and the struggle of recollection. Voices drift in and out, suggestive of family ghosts and inner demons. Chronology is poetic, and memories are filtered after the event like the film’s washed-out colour palette. The writer-director offers a terrifying tension between the public solidarity of pub sing-a-longs, marriage celebrations and mourning and the private horror of domestic abuse, depression and personal dreams sought and destroyed. The men are the most flawed, but the women, though the heroines of the piece, are compromised too: ‘Why did you marry him, mam?’ asks a daughter. ‘He was nice. He was a good dancer…’ It’s a heartbreaking work. Its cast are phenomenal; its songs flow through the film like blood; and Davies is unflinching in his hunt for truth and full of nothing but love and understanding for his characters. A masterpiece.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday April 20 2007
Duration: 84 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Terence Davies
Screenwriter: Terence Davies
Cast: Freda Dowie
Peter Postlethwaite
Angela Walsh
Dean Williams
Lorraine Ashbourne
Sally Davies
Nathan Walsh
Susan Flanagan
Michael Starke
Vincent Maguire
Antonia Mallen
Jean Boht
Pauline Quirke

Average User Rating

5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|4
1 person listening
gill barnes

I first saw this in the 80s and fell in love.I have held it dear to me all this time and often tell family and friends about it!!!! so glad to see its available on dvd.I did video it at the time but lost it. Utterly moving magical film that this 47 year old will never tire of!! so thank you mr. davies!!

gill barnes

I first saw this in the 80s and fell in love.I have held it dear to me all this time and often tell family and friends about it!!!! so glad to see its available on dvd.I did video it at the time but lost it. Utterly moving magical film that this 47 year old will never tire of!! so thank you mr. davies!!