Stephen Frears' new film, set in a Depression-era Liverpool poised on the brink of World War II, tells the story of a family torn by circumstance and viewed through the eyes of an inquisitive schoolboy, Liam (Anthony Borrows). When Liam's dad loses his job at a local shipyard, the women in the family are forced to pull together while the father, driven by frustration and humiliation, joins the British Union of Fascists. Liam attempts to understand his surroundings while contending with the terrifying dogma of his Catholic school, where teachers are continually lecturing on the horrors of eternal damnation. Fearing that her family will fall apart, Liam's mother focuses on his first communion, in hopes that the Church will help hold things together. Frears, whose credits include The Grifters, My Beautiful Laundrette and High Fidelity, spent more than a decade in the making of the film, which previewed last year at the Venice and Toronto film festivals. See "Movie Capsules" for details.