IT’S 1990 and Ray is an alcoholic. His neighbour and estranged wife are doing their best to help (with a steady supply of home brew, mainly).
Ray just wants his wife Liz back but he has become his own prisoner.
Waking only to collect his benefits and sink more drink, we witness his downward spiral through a series of flashbacks.
This debut from Richard Billingham is based on a set of photos his family published 20 years ago.
It is a bleak, bankrupt look at working-class Britain before it had been romanticised, showing how depression and learning difficulties just weren’t acknowledged. Everybody smokes and people drink to get drunk without pleasure, simply to escape.
In one sequence, Richard’s Uncle Lol (Game Of Thrones’ Tony Way) – who “isn’t all there” – is tasked with watching young Jason while the family go out. Will, the sadistic lodger, persuades him to drink himself into oblivion, leaving the young lad holding a carving knife as he throws up on the sofa.
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A vicious leathering is doled out and so begins the film’s slow spiral – from terraced house to high-rise, kids from their homes into care, and supping litres of booze a day just to function.
Billingham takes a neutral and nostalgia-free look at his life. And whether we like it or not, everyone can find common ground.
Better performances might have been teased from the cast but given this is a debut, Billingham is clearly one to watch.
Ray & Liz 108 mins (15)