Ray & Liz

Winner of the IWC bursary at the LFF last year, Richard Billingham’s Ray & Liz is based on his award-winning photographs of his mother and father in their decrepit Birmingham house in the 80s.

I love this film. It’s brutally beautiful, a recreation of memory in all its colour and fetid, fly-buzzing, nicotine-stained, alcohol-soaked neglect.

It plays out in stand-alone scenes, a story line just about discernible between the episodes. But it’s a story-line of self-destruction and surrender, of acquiescence to the drink and the hopelessness, to the carelessness. 

I guess you can accuse it of revelling in the dirt, a certain  nostalgie de la boue  but if you know the photos, you can’t be surprised, because he’s literally brought them to cinematic life. There’s genius here in the act of reproduction, but there’s also, crucially, hope and some kind of love. 

And, playing Liz, there’s a totally brilliant performance from Ella Smith, which brings in layers of humour and tenderness, suggesting there’s a heart beating underneath this overflowing ashtray of a human being. It’s a performance of great empathy showing an intelligence of the most instinctive kind – she’s the next Olivia Colman.