“The golden moments pass and leave no trace,” says writer/director Terence Davies in one of many quotes (this one from Chekhov) that stud his voiceover in Of Time and the City. It’s an odd thing to say in a you-can’t-go-home-again film that’s all about revisiting memories, especially one from as ardent a movie-lover as Davies: Isn’t stopping time in its tracks one of the things film does best? But logic isn’t the strong point of this highly personal and poetic film essay.
It starts slow, relying too much on too-generic quotes about the movie’s main subjects, the passage of time and the city of Davies’s youth: “If Liverpool did not exist, it would have to be invented.” But things soon get interesting as the filmmaker, then 63 (the film came out in 2008), touched on some personal landmarks (falling for the movies, realizing that he was gay, becoming “a very happy, very contented born-again atheist—thank God”) and then unsheathes a waspish stinger. As he traces the changes that make him feel like “an alien” in his hometown today, his plummy Oxbridge tones turn downright venomous at times.