Liam (2000)

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Released 9-Apr-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Production Notes
Synopsis
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 87:09 (Case: 91)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Stephen Frears
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Ian Hart
Clare Hackett
Anne Reid
Meagan Burns
Anthony Borrows
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music John Murphy


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, mildly
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Liam is a young boy growing up in 1930's Liverpool - a mainly Irish Catholic community. He lives with his family - Dad, Mam, his big brother Con and elder sister Theresa; they are not well off, but they are content. Dad works on the Docks as a welder and is a very proud man - one of the hardest working in the community. Liam loves his family and their lifestyle and goes to a very intense Catholic school where he learns about sin, confession, hell and communion.

    When the Jewish owner of Dad's worksite closes the yard, Dad is unemployed and cannot find casual work. The family is forced to rely on the income brought into the house by Con and Theresa. This damages Dad's aforementioned pride as he slowly slips into a great depression, and his bitterness toward others who are more well-off or who are working steadily grows stronger, eventually finding the answer to his problems in the fascist movement.

    Liam is forced to deal with the prospect of his first communion and is busily trying to clear his mind of all his 'sins' and come to grips with the changes going on at home. Keeping his feelings and fears inside causes Liam's speech impediment to get increasingly worse, to the extent that he cannot even confess his 'sins' to the priest. Theresa works hard at the house of a wealthy Jewish family who treat her very nicely and who she likes working for - they give her presents and make her feel welcome. Liam loves his sister the most - they share the same room and are very alike as they do not speak very much. Mam deals with the changes to the family by trying to ignore them - she still wants them to keep paying their debts as she tries to keep the family together as best she can despite Dad's growing dissent.

    Liam is a well-made film that demands the audience take a vested interest in the story. Because the story is more-or-less presented from Liam's point of view, director Stephen Frears does not give the audience anything for free. You are forced to work a lot of things out for yourself, as a small child would. Like many films from this era and setting, it is very dark, dirty and grey with not much light at the end of the tunnel. It features one of the darkest and bleakest endings I have seen in a long time. It is a quality production with solid performances from Ian Hart (Dad), Clare Hackett (Mam) Megan Burns (Theresa) and Anne Reid (Mrs Abbernathy), but it does not leave much for those looking for some redemption after 90 minutes.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of Liam is solid and does not contain too many flaws. At the beginning of this film, the transfer has some problems, but they get increasingly better as the film goes on.
    
    The feature is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
    
    The main problem with this transfer is its lack of sharpness and shadow detail. As mentioned above, this film is very dark and is filled with scenes that are not well-lit which serves to give a very depressing and cramped outlook on life  Because of this, it was very important for the makers of this DVD to ensure that there is proper shadow detail so the viewers can at least see what is happening on screen. There are times on this disc where it is verging on impossible to see anything else besides a shadowy blur, with prime examples of this at 6:32, 10:46 and 34:54. Coupled with this is a massive amount of grain early in the film at 3:56, 4:09, 4:15 and 5:41. Together, these two problems put make the first act of the film very unclear and difficult to watch, but by the end of the film, neither of these problems occur very much at all.

    The colours in the transfer are very consistent throughout. While it is very dark for the most part, there are scenes that have bright and vibrant colours in them which shine brightly. At one point however, the picture suddenly goes very white and looks overexposed before a fade-to-black - this happens at 60:22. I am not sure if this was a problem with the film's negative being overexposed or whether it was a problem that occurred in the transfer to DVD.

    There are very few MPEG artefacts to be found here, with some posterization at 35:56 and some slight film-to-video artefacts in the form of aliasing at 53:58. There are negative film artefacts throughout in the form of dust and dirt in some of the darker scenes, but nothing too bad.

    There are no subtitles recorded on this disc which is a shame because it is a hard task understanding what some of these characters are saying - in particular at 11:27 when Dad is talking to the priest - but more on that in the next section.

    This disc is single layered.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    In general terms, this audio transfer not up to scratch. There is a constant 'hissing' or ambient noise through the speakers that really stands out when there is not much dialogue or action on screen. The best time to notice this is during a scene with Liam and Mrs Abbernathy beginning at 70:10. I find this problem particularly annoying as one of the great things about listening to a film on DVD is being able to hear a perfect silence or subtle noises in the background. This hissing was so loud that for the first half of the film I thought that the noise was from the wind outside my house. Unfortunately, I was wrong - it was just poorly transferred audio.
    
    There is only one audio track recorded on this DVD, and needless to say, it is the one I listened to. It is an English 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround track encoded at 192 kb/s.

    As I touched upon in the subtitle section of the video transfer, some of the dialogue in the film is very hard to understand; whilst some of this is because of the heavy accents the characters have, the dialogue could have been a lot sharper and clearer than it appears on this DVD. The best time to notice this is at 11:27. There are no problems with audio synchronisation in the transfer.
 
    The music is strong throughout the film with a piano-based score by John Murphy. The music never takes over or dominates a scene but adds its presence whenever it is called for. My main concern with this score is that it adds a bit of a 'Made for Television' feel to the film as it is very similar to the music for the 1980s Australian soap opera 'A Country Practice'.
 
    The surround speakers get quite a work-out on this disc considering that is a 2.0 soundtrack. Mainly used to add small effects and give a wider presence to the film, they are used effectively.
 
    The subwoofer is not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Does 'Synopsis' really count as an extra??!?

Menu

    A static, unclear picture of Liam that is 16x9 enhanced with some of the musical score playing in a loop.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    These biographies are the usual kind with a small commentary on the person's background and previous work.

Production Notes

    The norm.

Synopsis

    These 15 pages of text pretty much give away the complete film in exacting detail. If you want to use the next 90 minutes of your life for something other than watching 'Liam' then simply use 5 minutes and get the whole story here.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    It seems as if the technical aspects of the R4 and R1 disc are exactly the same.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     There is no real compelling evidence to choose one version over the other besides the superior PAL format that the Region 4 release offers, that is unless the extra 1:48 of trailer really matters to you.

Summary

    Liam is a quality film, but in the end is another depression era 'poverty stricken family' drama. It is worth a look and is enjoyable, but there is not much here to make me go nuts.

    The video is solid.

    The audio is frustrating.

    The extras are almost non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Hugh Fotheringham (what the hell is going on in bio??)
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S525, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS797- THX Select
SpeakersJamo X550 Left and Right, Jamo X5CEN Centre, Jamo X510 Surround

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Damien M
DVD Net - Terry O
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Roger L

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