DVD reviews: The Impossible| Billy Liar

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A MISTAKENLY narrow perspective ruins what could have been an incredible true story of survival in The Impossible, a dramatisation of one family’s experiences of the devastating South Asian tsunami that killed 300,000 people on Boxing Day 2004.

The Impossible (Entertainment One, £21.99)

As anglicised versions of the real Spanish family upon whom the film’s story is based, Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor do their best to respond honestly to the emotional demands of the situation, but director Juan Antonio Bayona’s disinterest in humanising any of the locals ends up demonising the people of Thailand, who suffered just as much as the rich white tourists with whom the film spends its time empathising.

Of course there’s no reason why exploring the experiences of a European family shouldn’t be a valid approach simply because they’re from a privileged background, but Bayona’s absolute disinterest in widening the film’s focus is a terrible mistake, one that leaves an increasingly bad taste in the mouth, particularly as the film’s horribly insensitive and myopic ending inadvertently makes the family appear contemptible.

Billy Liar - 50th Anniversary Edition (Studio Canal, £16.99)

It’s been half a century since Billy Liar first emerged on the big screen. Watched today, John Schlesinger’s adaptation of Keith Waterhouse’s 1959 novel and Willis Hall’s subsequent stage version remains a fascinating snapshot of Britain in a moment of great social transition.

Caught between the end of the immediate post-War era and the onset of the Swinging Sixties, its eponymous hero (played by Tom Courtenay) is certainly a poignant and prescient creation. An incessant fantasist determined to shirk off the limited scope of his working-class background, but too afraid to attempt to make his dreams a reality, he may rail against perceived oppression but he lacks the self-awareness to realise that the only person in his way is himself.

As such, the film, at least thematically, feels more analogous to American common man tragedies like Death of a Salesman than the Angry Young Man films (Look Back in Anger, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner) with which it’s frequently lumped. Visually, though, it’s very much of a piece with those British New Wave classics.

• To order these DVDs, call The Scotsman on 01634 832789.