Ray and Liz

classified 15

Please note: This was screened in March 2019

Richard Billingham
Richard Ashton, Michelle Bonnard, Sam Dodd
108 mins, 2018, UK
Primary language

Celebrated British photographer Richard Billingham’s BAFTA nominated kitchen sink drama is an intricate family portrait inspired in part by his own memories and his successful series of candid photographs depicting his family in their council flat outside Birmingham during the Thatcher era.

In 1996 photographer Richard Billingham published a series of photographs titled Ray’s a Laugh. Sharing the same cramped spaces as his celebrated images, his new film follows his alcoholic father Ray; his obese, tattooed mother Liz; and his younger brother Jason through a series of everyday rituals that defy chronology. With exquisitely, lovingly drawn characters who exude a wide and subtle range of emotion, the film’s strength accrues through its indelible sense of detail: the sublime light streaming through bottles of homemade brew; the lace curtains, paisley carpets, and ornate wallpaper that inform a period décor of paradoxical beauty and tackiness.

With the feel of the small-scale stakes of a Raymond Carver story and shot on 16mm by cinematographer Daniel Landin (Under the Skin) with the same quiet voyeurism and sumptuous palette that recalls Terence Davies’ Distant Voices, Still Lives, Billingham's debut is by turns tremendously sad, shocking, hilarious, and humanist. A superb portrait that’s as much about desperation and poverty as it is about memory, resistance, and small moments of grace.

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