Richard Billingham is primarily known as an autobiographical photographer/ multimedia artist. He grew up in the tenement flats of Cradley Heath, a tiny town on the outskirts of Birmingham, England. Most of his photography and video artwork consists of character studies, mostly featuring members of his own family. Thusly, it is no surprise that his first feature film is also a dramatization of his oft-dysfunctional family dynamic.
“…his first feature film is also a dramatization of his oft-dysfunctional family dynamic.”
The characters of Ray (Justin Salinger) and Liz (Ella Smith), in Ray & Liz, are based upon Billingham’s parents. Ray is the quiet long-suffering husband of Liz, the overweight chain-smoking matriarch who won’t think twice about beating the s**t out of someone with a shoe if they wronged her. Their eldest son, Rich (Jacob Tuton), has become accustomed to taking care of his younger brother, Jason (Joshua Millard-Lloyd). While Rich is much more focused on his schoolwork and life outside of his chaotic home, Jason embraces his parent’s anarchic sensibilities. This isn’t his fault, as it is a result of his upbringing and overall lack of structure.
It’s tough to say whether or not the parents of these two intended to be so neglectful. They aren’t portrayed in the most positive way, especially when the children were growing up, but one can glean a sense of deep regret in both Ray and Liz, particularly when they’re older.
"…slice-of-life portrayal of poor weirdoes..."