A collection of moments in the childhood of Bud, a Liverpudlian schoolboy in 1955. Plucked from his cosy home when he is sent to his new Catholic school, the film looks at his loneliness as teachers and pupils pick on him and his increasing isolation at home as he hovers between childhood and adolescence. His beloved film idols and screen stories keep him company in his imagination but in the real world he feels increasingly like a misfit.
An informal sequel to his breakthrough feature Distant Voices, Still Lives
, Terence Davies' film revisits the same vivid autobiographical sources as its predecessor. Set in working-class Liverpool in the mid-50s, it's less a linear story than an impressionistic tapestry of sights, sounds, colours and above all music woven together in the head of the 11-year-old protagonist (called Bud, but very clearly meant for Davies himself). Brought up in a mainly female household--widowed mother and four older sisters--Bud undergoes ordeals of bullying and stern punishment at his new Catholic school. But he spends most of his time lapped by the warm fringes of the adult world, of which he's a fascinated observer, often delighted, sometimes obscurely troubled. A nostalgic mix of film clips and popular songs--on the radio or in family sing-songs--contribute to Bud's rich inner life, but sentimentality is held at bay by the poignancy for the boy's situation, alienated from children of his own age and nervously aware of his emergent gay sexuality. Davies' stylised lighting heightens the sense of captured memory, while his stately, elegant camera traces patterns and connections, eliding the borders between reality and fantasy. --Philip Kemp