I went into Liverpool fearing an "unmediated slab of quotidian reality"* and hoping for an Uncle Boonmee-like revelatory experience. What I actually experienced was something that, while not reaching (or to be fair even grasping) for Boonmee's intense mysticism, imparted a not dissimilar sense of a regrettable past embedded in the present. Unlike Boonme the loss is etched in run down, occasionally skeletal, buildings and faces. Lisandro Alonso finds a great deal of pathos in simply placing his prodigal son in what were clearly once familiar surrounds and people, or in quietly evoking the wider world outside of the small, isolated village.
Despite this I didn't find it an entirely gratifying experience. Alonso's use of non professionals ensures some very restrained performances which occasionally become flat. It's probable that this hyper-naturalism is exactly what Alonso was hoping to achieve but for me, raised on traditional acting, the ability to read the tiniest flickers of emotion in the actor's faces was missing and I couldn't stop thinking about how the film might have played with someone like Samantha Moreton in the lead.
*This wonderful phrase is stolen from Shane Danielsen who deployed it in his critique of Joe Swanberg. His piece is here.