My father wanted to see this, partly because he was born and bred in Liverppol and now lives near Chester, but partly because it has had some excellent reviews in the media. I was happy to go along for the ride.
The film is peppered with poetry and quotations, and they are all appropriate for the footage at that moment, whether you know the lines or not. The narration is rich and the voice has real resonance. The music is varied - rock, ballads, classical - and again, whether it is to your taste or not, it is all appropriate for the footage being shown.
There is humour, there is some bitterness about the difference between the rich and the poor, and there is great sadness for what has been lost forever. In fact, the overwhelming impression is a sense of huge loss in the face of decay. I am not usually one for tears in cinemas, but in the tiny cinema of Theatr Clwyd half of the audience was struggling to dig out tissues, and at one point I was one of them. The sense of vibrancy and hope fading into depression and decay was almost too much to bear.
But there really is humour. One of my favourite jokes is far too rude to repeat here, but the dryness in some cases and the outright vigour in others had the audience laughing as well as crying.
If you are offended by a negative attitude to religion or the monarchy this may be something you will need to bear in mind. But there are no digs at politics or any focus on street violence, both obvious targets to create an impact with an audience.
There is nothing artificial about the ending. There is no false sense of hope for a future which is, if one is being realistic, completely uncertain. There are shots of modern life, people of all ages being both false and natural in different activities, but there are no predictions and there is nothing that lifts the overall sense of loss, occasional anger, and regret.
It is the only film that I have ever attended at which the audience sat motionless, with the theatre lights all fully illuminated, until the very end of the credits. There was a real sense that something remarkable had just happened and that it would be uncivil to stand and leave before the text had trailed away.
My father and I went to a nearby pub afterwards for a meal and spent the entire time talking about the film. Laugh or cry, it is an amazing and never to be missed experience. I have it on pre-order.