Don't go into Liverpool expecting a history of the Beatles or anything else fab, for that matter. This slow-moving look at a seaman on shore leave is a dreary, near-silent meditation on life, family and the big, empty world we live in.
Not much is said or even happens in Liverpool. These are people of very few words. Minutes on end go by where the screen is silent (indeed: Subtitles are barely needed in this Argentinean film). Director and writer Lisandro Alonso plays it as a pensive exploration of cold landscapes and even colder emotions.
Protagonist Farrel (Juan Fernández) takes leave to visit his family in his hometown of remote Tierra del Fuego. He walks in silence, eats in silence, drinks in silence, hangs out in a strip club in silence and, of course, sleeps in silence (Alonso steadies his camera on the snoozing Farrel for a while, so settle in).
Farrel eventually makes his way home, where we learn a little (very little) about him. Liverpool is the story of one man's quest for reconciliation, even though we're never really told why he left home and why no one really cares that he's back. Even Farrel's elderly mom is happy to see him leave.
Too bad Alonso couldn't come up with more of a story. Liverpool plods as it follows Farrel on a journey that we're not told much about. But the filmmaker paints some pretty images here, especially the ones focusing on the snow-covered vistas of Tierra del Fuego (Alonso lingers on them forever, so you have plenty of time to appreciate the details).
Still, Liverpool's indie-movie pace and lack of story are deadly dull. Plus, there isn't much character development — odd, considering Farrel is in every scene until the final act, which takes a pleasantly surprising turn. It's fitting that we never really get to know the meandering Farrel — who says maybe a dozen words in the movie and doesn't have much of a plan — since Liverpool doesn't seem to know where it's going either.