In a 1930s' working class Irish family in Liverpool, the children are as scared of sin as their parents are of poverty. Father and son alike are obsessed with blame; the father blames Jews for his poverty, and his son blames himself. In his first confession, Liam stutters that his sins caused hair to grow hair on his mother's body, as he found out from accidentally seeing her in her bath, and comparing her with art reproductions boys at school thrillingly study. Ironically, the clueless priest relieves Liam's burden.
This harder-edged movie is what "Angela's Ashes" might have been. When the father tells his wife (Hackett), "We're skint," he's accepting doom. Broke and unemployed, he must get young Liam a suit for First Communion, and says that to pay the Jewish tailor, he must get money from the Jewish pawnbroker. Hart gives a memorable performance as the kind of man who can't bear seeming insufficient. Lined up with other unemployed men, he uses a pint of Guinness to bribe the foreman of a factory, yet is still passed over, and spits in the man's face. When he marches in a rally, we see how hate groups are clusters of weak people clinging to each other, hoping to find in the mob the qualities they themselves lack.
A son, Con (David Hart), brings home his pay, but wars with his father, and daughter Teresa (Burns), a housemaid for a the wife of wealthy Jewish couple, is bribed to keep quiet about an affair, while the woman's daughter wants to be friends across the class divide. Teresa's heart breaks when her own mother asks her to select one of the several dresses Teresa's new friend gives her, because the others must be pawned.
On Communion Sunday, Liam cries out furiously, "Do you know how much it costs to dress children, Father?" blaming Jews, although he might better blame the church for not welcoming children in whatever clothes they have. The father's last big act is melodramatic, but leads to a heartbreaking, tender, final shot, suggesting that Catholicism - at least, in those days and in that society - weighed more upon children than some could bear, and that they, thus diminished, sought unsavory forms of self-esteem, and makes a connection between guilt, low self-esteem, and an adult attraction to the buck-passing solutions of racism, fascism, and even, as the final scene makes perfectly clear, terrorism.
Jimmy McGovern, Based On His Novel The Back Crack Boys2001
Ian Hart, Claire Hackett, Anthony Borrows,Megan Burns, David Hart
brownshirts, 1930s Liverpool, fascism, rise of fascism, Ange
war and peace
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