Distant Voices, Still Lives

13/10/2016 19:45.
Cert 15

special-event-distant-voices-still-lives-oct-13thBased upon Davies’ own childhood in Liverpool, Distant Voices, Still Lives chronicles a working class family of the 40s and 50s. Brutal at times, this film is a haunting depiction of the post-WW2 era through one family’s life. “Davies’ storytelling is a unique joy. Images evoke family photos and the struggle of recollection. Voices drift in and out, suggestive of family ghosts and inner demons. Chronology is poetic, and memories are filtered after the event like the film’s washed-out colour palette” Dave Calhoun, Time Out. (Cert 15)

Dir: Terence Davies 81 mins UK 1988

A first for ABCD. This 1980s masterpiece of British film-making will be introduced and discussed by its producer, Jennifer Howarth.

Programme Notes

We extend warm welcome to our special guest Jennifer Howarth, producer of tonight’s Terence Davies film. Besides Distant Voices, Jennifer was also producer of four other features, including Blame It on the Bellboy (1992), On the Black Hill (1988), and Ladder of Swords (1990): she also worked as screenplay consultant on Rita, Sue and Bob Too! (1987). We have never before had a real live film producer come to speak to us, so this Is an unmissable opportunity to find out what film producers do. It’s probably safe to assume it varies from producer to producer and from film to film but that variety will add much of interest to this evening’s event.

The second part of Davies’ autobiographical series The Terence Davies Trilogy (1983) and The Long Day Closes (1992), Distant Voices, Still Lives is a music drama set in 1940s/50s Liverpool, and is based on the director’s own family experiences. In the first segment, Distant Voices, we are introduced to the three siblings Eileen, Maisie, and Tony, played by Angela Walsh (Nowhere Boy, 2009), Lorraine Ashbourne (King Kong, 2005), and Dean Williams (Bye, Bye Love, 1995) respectively. We are also introduced to their parents, played by Freda Dowie (The Omen, 1976) and Pete Postlethwaite (The Usual Suspects, 1995). The second segment, Still Lives, follows the lives of the siblings two years on, when things are not going well for them.

The film was successful on the festival and awards circuit, picking up awards at Cannes and Toronto in 1988. It also received the Best Picture and Best Director awards at the 1990 London Critics Circle Film Awards.

Acknowledgements: IMDB, BBC, ICO, Total Film, The State of the Arts

“A tough yet truly evocative family portrait” Stella Papamichael, BBC Films

Mother: Freda Dowie
Father: Pete Postlethwaite
Eileen: Angela Walsh
Tony: Dean Williams
Director: Terence Davies
Producer: Jennifer Howarth
Screenplay: Terence Davies
Cinematography: William Diver, Patrick Duval


A great event! Jennifer Howarth’s insightful anecdotes about her working relationship with Terence Davies provided a fascinating glimpse into this exceptional piece of work – which was an emotional roller-coaster ride. Please can we have Jennifer again for another event!

A masterpiece. Heartfelt – but in a restrained way. Hearing from the film’s producer was great

Wonderful evocative film – terrific introduction

It was great to hear from the film’s producer. I found it difficult to follow what was being said, both because of the sound quality and the accents. As a non-native speaker, I also struggled with the song lyrics. Ultimately, I thought there was too much music and some events were just left hanging in mid-air. I enjoyed the film, nevertheless, for its emotional impact

Certainly a gripping film that managed to be agonising and endearing by turns. A convincing antidote to anyone who harks back to the ‘good old days’ and forgets the progress our society has made. Definitely from grime to sublime!

Beautifully filmed, with clever switching in time. Captured (their) feelings so well

I have not seen any other portrayals of a violent father that were as effective as this. A vivid presentation of life during, and especially after, WW2. I thought the discussion afterwards was rather too long

A miserable life with (some) odd, vivid, lighter moments

Interesting portrait but ‘not a lorra laffs’. They knew how to sink a few bevvies to maybe drown their sorrows. Sound not too clear in parts

Good accompanying music

Excellent sound. Made me feel thirsty!


A:18, B:11, C:5, D:1, E:0 to give 83% from 80% of those present.