Distant Voices Still Lives (1988)

Post-war working-class Liverpool life is impressionistically evoked in Terence Davies’ two-part film, by turns lyrical, humorous and horrific.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • Distant Voices Working
  • Still Lives Working
  • Entfernte Stimmen - Stilleben Alternative German


“Davies’ film is thought to come under the heading of unfinished business. I disagree. The creative process involved in the reconstruction of an anguished past puts it to rest.”
Beryl Bainbridge, The Guardian, 2007

Despite having only a handful of credits to his name, Terence Davies is arguably the UK’s most accomplished film poet. These companion pieces, shot two years apart on tight budgets with BFI support, evoke his upbringing in Liverpool after the war in a working-class home dominated by the violence of his father, fearsomely played by then newcomer Pete Postlethwaite.

Davies achieves the rare feat of nostalgia without sentimentality, using dynamic lighting, a superb soundtrack and a fragmented structure to construct a distinctive drama suffused with both beauty and horror. From the home to the pub, the cinema to the beach, each locale suggests both charm and stifling limitation in a film that’s as concerned with the operation of memory as with its material setting.

The film Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) can be glimpsed in the iconic movie-house scene. Davies revisited his Liverpool childhood in The Long Day Closes (1992).

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