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If you want to get down to the Britty nitty-gritty, this dour tale--think Angela's Ashes, but less arty and not as good--will get you there. Liam (Anthony Borrows) is the stuttering 7-year-old son of a dirt-poor family in Depression-era Liverpool. And then things get really depressing. Dad loses his job, mom hocks everything in the house and the beautiful daughter takes a menial job.
Crazy Catholicism is the comic relief as Liam learns about sin and hellfire from his nut-job school teacher and the creepy parish priest. The acting is solid all around, but usually stellar director Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, The Snapper) seems off his game as the film meanders from slow-slow-slow in the early going to way too fast at the very end. The result is a tiny story, an oversize climax and a disappointment.