There’s something of Billy Fisher in all of us; the perpetually fantasist who daydreams their way out of the real world and into their own private one. No? Oh ... just us then.
In Billy Fisher’s (Courtenay) world, a kingdom he calls Ambrosia, he is king, general, president and all-round heroic stud. Back in the real world he’s an undertaker’s clerk, living with his folks, with a couple of whiny girlfriends on the go and a deep desire to become a script-writer in London. Unfortunately, well, he’s a bit crap, really.
Certainly crap when it comes to dealing with real life. Even though Billy is loveable, you do spend most of the movie wanting to slap him upside the head. Although when he imagines gunning down his family, boss and girlfriends, you’re right there with him.
When he boards the train with the wild Christie as Liz (wild in the sense that her hair hasn’t been backcombed to oblivion and she smokes) we’re desperate for him to make the final break, not so much from home to London, but from Ambrosia to the real world. Billy Liar is a very gentle look back at adolescence during the 60s — a time when an adolescent meant anyone under the edge of 35, who didn’t do their top button up.
Nevertheless, it’s still pretty touching and ever so slightly depressing. Now we have things like Alpha Dog and Kidulthood, which makes you wonder how things can possibly get worse in another 50 years. One-way ticket to Ambrosia, please.
EXTRAS ★★★ The film has been lovingly restored for this 50th anniversary Blu-ray release. The bonus material mainly consists of people reminiscing about the film, and includes: the featurette Remembering Billy Liar with Tom Courtenay and Helen Fraser (9:43); an interview with actor and director Richard Ayoade (11:59); a look through the Keith Waterhouse Archive with British Library curator Zoe Wilcox (12:30); an interview with Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley (9:34); a behind-the-scenes stills gallery; and the theatrical trailer.