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Reviews for Distant Voices, Still Lives ( 1988 ) 1080p

Can we stop financing this type of film, please

By: hoytyhoyty
Distant Voices, Still Lives is a cartoon of a real, working-class, pithy character and environment analysis.

It is not, itself, a real film.

It is what happens when somebody manages to drink enough red wine with, play enough golf with, and seduce the daughter of the right financier.

I love Art. I really do.

It's just this isn't Art. It's a waste of time that pretends its failings are somehow the fault of the audience.

Stop making these, there is better work to be done.

One star for the bits that are quite pretty.


Wonderful but difficult film

By: Wryter47
This is an important film and evidently is regarded as such by many serious reviewers, so I watched it and found it sometimes very hard to sit through because it struck more than a few painful chords in my own memory of my family when I was growing up in the 40s and 50s. Indeed.

My continuing impression is that men of that era, not only in the UK and US as well as elsewhere, were really almost clinically unreflective in that they were so used to being tolerated and getting away with murder that they were nearly incapable of seeing themselves in anything resembling a true light.

How women both sustained family life by themselves and because of their friendships with other women belies the fact that they felt powerless to change anything for the better, at least for more than five minutes.

My fantasy is that it would be great for a lot of men of my generation (now 70) to be tied down with their mouths taped and their eyes propped open with toothpicks, if need be, and forced to watch this movie about forty times! Since that's not going to happen, all I can do is recommend that the peers of my generation at least consider watching it. It can only do us good!


With the power to make me weep within seconds, "Distant Voices, Still Lives" is incredible bold filmmaking.

By: Sergeant_Tibbs
Distant Voices, Still Lives is one of those films I've been meaning to see for years. With its two- part structure, it's never seemed like a film that's easy to digest and now having seen it, that's quite true. With its very experimental approach to storytelling, it's a family drama put into a blender as the narrative rocks back and forth from when the children were young to the brutal father's death in the children's adulthood. While it risks being incoherent and lacking character development, it instead presents shards of pure brittle emotion that cut to the bone right away. It's powerful to the point of one short vignette making me weep within seconds, but it also has the ability to make me laugh often. The shards are put in order as the character's memory triggers transitions and happiest moments are met with relevant saddest moments from the character's lifetimes. It's an incredible way of filmmaking.

The visuals are drained of all colour, leaving the picture as aged brown and white which give it a nostalgic value, it's a clear influence on low-key filmmakers such as Roy Andersson. The camera-work is especially interesting as to what it does and doesn't show with the camera sometimes lingering in a room while the characters leave, allowing us to eavesdrop on their conversations. It gives us time to observe the rooms and seems to highlight the memories and events that took place which give them an eerie atmosphere. While the cinematography is deliberately dreary, the characters sing traditional and popular songs of the time, this music colouring their lives. It's really beautiful and unique substitute to personalised dialogue, much of which when it's there, feels theatrical. The strongest performance is definitely Pete Postlethwaite, who gives an astounding turn as the children's father.

The first part, Distant Voices, focuses on the three children's relationship with their father and the second part, Still Lives, focuses on the consequences of their father's actions. It's a powerful and profound statement on the relationship between men and women as some repeat history with abusive men and some try to push forward for more equality. Still Lives is more cohesive than Distant Voices, even if there are less events, but the jumping around element of the latter is sorely missed and does render it a little disjointed at first. It all comes together when it becomes apparent that the film tracks the point when one family becomes three different families and how the repercussions of childhood ripple down the generations. One of the best films I've seen in a long time. Unforgettable. Terrence Davies will certainly be one to look out for, and I'm sure will influence my own filmmaking too.


"Evocative, elegiac and poignant..."

By: SindreKaspersen
English screenwriter and director Terence Davies feature film debut which he also wrote, was originally made for television and is inspired by his family memories growing up in a working-class family in Liverpool, England during the 1940s. It consists of the two films "Distant Voices" and "Still Lives" which were made two years apart with the same crew. While "Distant Voices" portrays the main characters growing up in Britain in the 1940s during World War II, "Still Lives" portrays them as grown-ups in Britain in the early 1950s after the war. It premiered in the Directors' Fortnight section at the 41st Cannes International Film Festival in 1988, was shot on locations in Liverpool, England and is a UK production which was produced by producer Jennifer Howarth. It tells the story about Tony, Eileen and Maisie, and their memories of their childhood living in a terraced house in North West England with their deeply religious mother and their and tyrannical father.

Distinctly and brilliantly directed by British filmmaker Terence Davies, this heartrending, impressionistic and biographical period drama draws a profoundly moving portrayal of a Catholic family living in Kensington, Liverpool during and after the Second World War in the mid-20th century. While notable for it's colorful milieu depictions, stellar production design by production designer Miki Van Zwanenberg and production designer and art director Jocelyn James, cinematography by cinematographer and film editor William Diver and cinematographer Patrick Duval, costume design by costume designer Monica Howe, editing by William Diver and use of music, this rarely affective and atmospheric coming-of-age story draws an intimate depiction of three siblings afflicting relationship with their patriarchal father and how his and his wife's separate ways of upbringing has shaped their lives, literary steams of love and compassion for it's locations and characters.

This rhythmic, lyrical and insightful journey through a filmmakers remembrance which is narrated from multiple viewpoints, is impelled and reinforced by it's fragmented narrative structure and the empathic and heartfelt acting performances by English actor Pete Postlethwaite (1946-2011), actor Dean Williams, English actress Freda Dowie, actress Angela Walsh in her debut feature film role and English actress Lorraine Ashbourne in her debut feature film role. An evocative, elegiac and poignant independent film which gained, among other awards, the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988.

nostalgia for a time that never was

By: CountZero313
Distant Voices, Still Lives sets out very deliberately to be painterly, observant, episodic and poetic. What is is, however, is haughty, stiff, self-conscious and uninvolving.

Growing up working class, I remember the singing, the drinking and smoking, and the fights round the kitchen table. The singing wasn't as professional, sober or choreographed as this. The drinking was messier, the smoking unhealthier (no one in this film has a smoker's cough, they all look like 'cool' smokers), and the fights and violence were a lot more visceral and furious. At one point the mother here is covered in bruises head to toe. Domestic violence was awful and for some victims relentless, but mostly (sometimes willfully) hidden from view. This film overplays it. As it does with the constant singing, which just becomes annoying.

I can appreciate the cinematography even if it does draw too much attention to itself, and the careful depiction of period detail. What I cannot accept is the wooden dialogue sequences, and the use of a nostalgia filter in a non-ironic way. The same themes have been covered in Once Were Warriors, Nil By Mouth, East is East, Tyrannosaur... Those films deal with the material in a much more vivid, affecting manner. There is not, of course, only one way to approach these subjects. But the approach taken by Distant Voices, Still Lives does not work.

Just because a film sets out very deliberately to be art cinema does not mean that it is. Britain's past is mis-represented in both folklore and aesthetic terms in this turgid outing.

easier to appreciate than enjoy

By: mjneu59
Terrance Davies' two-part nostalgia exercise is, depending on your tolerance for unembellished honesty, either a sentimental trip down memory lane or a cold-eyed wallow in drab English monotony. The British writer director went to great lengths to re-create a facsimile of working class family life circa 1940-1950, and his meticulous attention to detail sets an almost too perfect mood: the film is both painfully realistic and totally depressing. Using a fragmented, hopscotch style approximating the actual process of memory itself, Davies mixes bits and pieces of autobiographical detail to show how cultural traditions have a way of repeating themselves for a typical Liverpool family, held together by stifling blue collar conditions and a good deal of recreational singing (38 period songs are featured on the soundtrack). The snapshot style doesn't allow for any dramatic momentum, but the film is constructed more as a sampling of brief, transient moments, and is extremely well crafted and emotional despite the often oppressive melancholy.


By: Moviespot
This film caught me 14 years ago when I first saw it.. and yesterday I was really touched by it again. A registration of 'forgotten' times somewhere during....the first half of the 20th century in Britain...a Totally Overwhelming sense of melancholy filmed in an extraordinary way by Terence Davies.A true work of art. The excellent idea of calling up emotions by letting the characters sing the sing-along songs of the era.... Then there is the photography of this film...seldom have i seen a modern day movie that brings up past times as this piece of wonder.... very , very tastefully done...the coloring and costume designs , the decorations...everything works to give you the idea that you'r staring into a amazing ! Heartbraking story of 'normal lives , by normal people , who are all gone and 'forgotten'... Still one of the most amazing pieces of cinema around !

Hated it

By: rteeter
I like art films. I like Pete Postlethwaite in other movies he's been in. I don't have a problem with violence per se; "Once Were Warriors" is one of my favorite movies.

This movie, however, was terrible. I only sat through it because I was with someone who wanted to see it; otherwise I would have walked out. The scenes seemed to alternate between the family singing together on the one hand, and the Dad beating everybody on the other. That's the whole movie as far as I could tell.

Apparently some of you saw more to it than that, and more power to you, but this movie certainly isn't for everybody.

What the hell was that????

By: chucknorrisrules
OK...I have just returned from the cinema...well.....I was brought to this film by my parents because we were under the illusion because of the reviews that it was something to see, and it was being shown 19 years after it's release. This is by far an astounding piece of cinematic work.

Because it's the first time I EVER walked out on a film in my life.

Pete Postlethwaite played a brutal and violent dad - brutal from the start, though funnily enough we see a brief moment where he decorates a Christmas tree and says goodnight to his children before putting their presents in their stockings and the next morning he smashes their Christmas dinner (without any explanation to his behaviour unless the director wanted the impression that this was normal male behaviour at the time - the film was done in the 1980s after all, when feminism had already developed a hostile attitude to men). Brief and disorientating flashbacks made me wonder what the hell was going on - 1940s? 1950s? Then most of it was shots of houses and montages of people crying and the sight of some poor cow getting beaten up by Postlethewaite - constantly making me feel as if there was no reason whatsoever to live if life is this crap, and no storyline whatsoever (except for a brief pile of things about a baby being born but that wasn't really much better either). The film was a montage of people randomly put together, with no chance to be involved in the story, and no chance to be brought into 1950s Liverpool (there was no indication of it being Merseyside except for the terrible, terrible accents). In fact, most of the film consisted of random people singing songs that made me want to stick my car keys through my ear and into my brain. Some way through the bit with the people celebrating the birth of a baby in a pub, I left, feeling that if I wanted to go through with this drivel, I should have looked at an old family photo album or something. It would save me trouble, time, money, and a great deal of pain.

It's kind of sad because I like Pete Postlethwaite. Not a huge fan but he's a brilliant actor, my father knew him, and when I met him he turned out to be a decent and chivalrous man. But I just wish someone had whispered into his ear at the time when pretending to slap around his family (he was good and tried his best, but the script never explained his character) that he is better than this.

The bestest movie ever, ever, EVER.

By: tmhoover
I saw this movie when it opened. I was 16. It floored me. I returned to it again and again during my film school days. I was in my 20s. It continued to floor me. I just dusted it off and watched it after several years without it. I'm 33. It floored me again. I can't get over the singularity of purpose matched with the mastery of craft. Or the ineffable sadness. Or that horrible little man who plays Les.

Bestest movie ever. See it repeatedly.

Why, oh why, is this film not on DVD? My VHS copy (taped from TV) is not nearly adequate to the task, and letterboxing would surely improve it. Any takers?

A film to avoid

By: mrjack21
If you like long panning shots of a dreary house that seem to occur every few moments, yet last for minutes, then maybe you'll enjoy this film.

If you like seeing actors who can't interact with each other, or deliver their lines with conviction, then maybe you'll enjoy this film.

If you only like seeing emotion range from the extreme of sad to the extreme of angry, with a literal nothing in between, then you'll enjoy this film.

If you enjoy seeing an already tedious film repeat itself over and over, not only in plot and events, but in camera angle, effect and music, then you'll enjoy this film.

If you enjoy bad singing, thrown in pretentiously, that becomes patronising, repetitive, dull and tedious, then see this film.

Personally I wish I hadn't watched it. Look at the actor list. They aren't famous for a reason. The only person I recognised was Pete Postlethwaite, and in my opinion his acting was always better suited for the stage. This is a film to avoid at all costs.

not a false note

By: sbamp49
Pete posthlewaite hits a performance that is so unique it is frightening. so true was the passion there where times in the movie when I wished he would die! The episodic and random nature of the flashbacks made it seem like memories from one's own childhood which reinforced the naturalistic acting and indeed made it almost voyeuristic! The true beauty of the film lies in the realism of the scenes and in the accurate depiction of life as it really is in all it's ugliness! Above all the movie said to me that out of "brutallity" can come "compassion and humanity". One scene really hits home is the Christmas scene where the camera pans up an idyllic British street where the Christmas lights are shining and by nature our faces are starting to smile and then dissolves into the living room where the family are sitting in expectation. You can feel the tension as you see the first shot and when he pulls the tablecloth off the table and shouts "CLEAN THIS UP",I remember jumping up!!! MASTERPIECE In my eyes yes! 10 OUT OF 10

Losing the will to live

By: ian_harris
This was a great disappointment to me. The genre is right up my street. The cast terrific. The recommendations all suggested a great experience. I thought it was awful and a waste of talent. It is very sad to have a brutally violent dad. It probably does haunt the brute's victims long after the brute is gone. Point made. I wonder whether those who praise this movie have ever seen a truly great domestic movie, such as Secrets and Lies or Through a Glass Darkly. I found myself losing the will to live while I watched this movie.

Beautiful, emotional, poetic...

By: ledzepp461
It gets better each time I see it. The music is brilliant and the story is touching, but in a very melancholy way. This is as close to poetry on film as I have ever seen. I only wish it would be released on DVD.

The "real truth", was far worse than the movie.

By: stuhh2001
In an interview, Terence Davis has stated that he had to tone down the reality of the story because as depressing as the film is, the "real thing" would be unendurable for audiences. We have all seen rage on the screen. Brando, De Niro, and Pesci, have had their moments, but the two actors who truly frightened me, and left me literally trembling, were Temuera Morrison, as the Maori father in "Once Were Warriors", a film from New Zealand, and Peter Postlethwaite, as the father in "Distant Voices". These actors hit something visceral in me, that my therapists never even guessed at. Fear of the father? Living with a man (my dad, so consumed with anger at a world that never had a truly happy day for him) who could only vent his rage at his family? Who knows, and at the age of 68, who the hell cares. Besides, Postlethwaites (I'm sure this name kept him out of the "bigtime" for many years, a little shobiz humor folks) acting honors go to the mother, Freda Dowie. She's on Masterpiece Theatre a lot and she's either mentally ill, or like this woman, a battered housewife trying to keep her kids and herself alive. Happiness or even a nice day is not on her agenda. Just trying to get through poverty, and not having her jaw broken by her husband is a happy day to her. If you like exploding autos, and thong draped anorexic Barbie dolls, this movie is not for you. But if you want to see a work of art carved out of Davis' agony, see this movie. Oh yes, I remember he said in an interview on NPR, that he couldn't remember his father ever touching him, or saying a kind word to him.

The most powerfully innovative film of the past quarter-century.

By: ewc
Among powerful films of the past quarter-century, none surpass this one for elegant and innovative design. Unfortunately, it will remain, it appears, a singular achievement, even among the works of Davies, for nothing he has since done approaches its power. The inability to comprehend how and why a film works, although now an all-too-common failing among filmmakers, is in Davies's case uniquely sad, for the promise of this film was unprecedented.

One of the most rewarding and unique films I've ever seen.

By: homo_superior
It's difficult to say exactly what this luminous masterpiece is about. It's a memoir of sorts but a highly stylized one where memories are re-experienced and conveyed through songs, frequently communally sung; painful familial interactions powerfully shot as if the scenes were paintings or sets on a stage. This formal approach resonates simultaneously with richness and alienation, pathos and ecstasy. Difficult to shake.

Not at all what I expected and there's certainly nothing quite like it anywhere in the history of cinema. Powerfully acted and masterfully directed: One of the great works of British movie-making.

I also highly recommend Davies' two other great works: "The Long Day Closes" and the recent, made for Showtime movie starring an amazing Gillian Anderson, "The House of Mirth." I personally didn't care that much for "The Neon Bible."

What a sad sentimental movie

By: just-4
I'm not the sentimental type, I don't know what it was in this movie, the rain, the singing or the sadness of live, but I just got all warm inside. It was such a beautiful film, and it had just the right length too. Very nice.