March 25, 2020  (Web Review)

Ray & Liz

Kim Stim, 107 min., not rated, DVD: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 1.5/4

This miserable slog through the lives of an alcoholic couple in England’s Black Country (in the West Midlands) is is actually a weird act of public therapy by its writer-director, Richard Billingham, a noted photographer who has taken pictures invoking his memories of a childhood spent in squalor and the boozy haze of his parents. Ray & Liz is an extension of Billingham’s penchant for gritty, personal revelation, with documentary touches (some of the action is shot in the fetid flat in which Billingham grew up), but performed by actors. In this chronologically fractured remembrance of things past, viewers see his father, Ray (played at different ages by Justin Salinger and Patrick Romer), whose days consist of drinking a neighbor’s home brew, never eating, never leaving home, and staring out his window. His ex, Liz (Ella Smith, Deirdre Kelly), stops by and proceeds to harangue him and take his money. Billingham balances later-age kitchen-sink horrors with flashbacks exposing the extent of Ray and Liz’s addictive, self-involved existence and neglect of their children. There is not a lot artistically, narratively, or cinematically to glean from this exercise in memory, in which scenes are overloaded with a sense of an inescapable, calcified past. Not a necessary purchase. (T. Keogh)