Review: RAY AND LIZ at the Las Vegas Film Festival

By Josh Muchly

I couldn’t get RAY AND LIZ out of my mind

Upshot: Writer/Director Richard Billingham returns to the outskirts of Birmingham where he and his brother were raised, in a visual exploration of his relationship with parents Ray and Liz.

Rundown: I couldn’t get RAY AND LIZ out of my mind for days. We’re not quite watching a story, you’re watching an experience. And you’re experiencing a reality. One you know is true, even if you haven’t experienced it. Where a sparkler on a holiday is just as magical as the fireworks it imitates. Where tender skin-to-skin constant is a treasure. Where poverty is just as mhch a part of life as rain, fog, and the cold.

Poverty is filth, is struggle, is addiction, is detachment. Billingham doesn’t skimp on the grunge and the grime: rabbit shit and dog piss, cigarette ash and crusty toenails; these and more make appearances before the credits roll. Its disgusting, and in no way unnecessary.

Every frame of the film seems to flood straight out of Billingham’s brain. Even the insert shots are some of the most inspired and artistic that I can recall.

Billingham has some sort of strong relationship with the Female Gaze — or, at least, the female stare. We see women’s eyes works of art, in puzzles, in photographs…. By the end of the film, we understand that motherhood isn’t limited to the carrier of a pregnancy in the same way that brotherhood is an activity, not a birthright. But perhaps family bonds are not easily severed in the end?

Highpoint: Tony Way and his character, Uncle Lol. Something about this character and Tony Way’s performance is truly unforgettable.

Lowpoint: the reduction of a narrative doesn’t reach the point of defiency, but it did make it a touch confusing to follow the story. But only sometimes.

Score: 6 out of 7

Postcript: I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite understand the ending. I looked away from the screen for just a moment, and a framed photograph was in my peripherals. When I turned back towards the screen, it cut to black and I missed who is in the photo.  I asked someone else in attendance, and they also couldn’t tell me for sure who it was — “I think it was Ray and Liz?”. This is an observation more than a criticism, but it was disappointing to miss out on the final moments. I wish the shot had lasted just a little bit longer.

Follow: @muchlymedia on Twitter (or email


5.00 avg. rating (94% score) - 1 vote

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join the Informer mailing list

Check your email and confirm the subscription