This is a very moving and personal look at a family that would have been too harrowing to watch if it were not for the genuine compassion of Terence Davies for the characters and his brilliant and innovative use of the musical score.The score provides a soft focus lens for the brutality of the patriarch of the family and the ongoing consequences in addition to an accurate timeframe for the unfolding drama.
I feel this film was excellent in parts and at others got the tone badly wrong. the first section was almost relentless in the sorrow it presented and this sort of overwhelmed me at the time. the performances were excellent and some of the framing was masterly. the need for songs every five seconds also seemed a bit too contrived. compared to a similar format of autobiography in Tarkovsky, it lacks somewhat.
Davies has given us a gift of a musical with an unerring camera documenting an imperfect world. The lack of camera movement gives such a sense of calm as to nearly unnerve us in moments of horror with stories revolving around the nucleus of a patriarchal terror or the same lives in a world without him. We cope with these people through music, one can't help but want to sing with them as we face our own tribulations.
A powerful return to the past through characters that sing and are merry, but beneath the surface there is unhappiness and melancholy. An open front door features early in the film and we see through it as if this were the lens through which we see this family, from deaths to marriages, all pass through this door and we watch on looking into the past. Brilliant film that feels so real we feel like voyeurs looking on.