Billy Liar is a British comedy-drama which mixes reality with fantastical delusions in a poignant film filled with inevitable sadness.


The film begins with the titular Billy (Tom Courtenay) lying in bed imagining a parade in his honour in the imaginary country of Ambrosia. In this fantasy Billy plays various different high-ranking members of society and everyone is happy. Then suddenly the fantasy is ended by Billy’s mother calling him down to breakfast in an abrupt transition, and we lay witness to Billy’s real and depressing life in which he has only his dreams to motivate him.

As the film continues it becomes abundantly clear however that Billy is not just a dreamer who aims to write a novel (amongst various other cliché dreams) but also a compulsive liar who has several outrageous lies all on the verge of being uncovered, these lies include an engagement to two different women, a ‘job’ as a scriptwriter in London and forgetting to post some 300 calendars for his current boss.


Each of these lies allows the film to produce a mix of comic moments and fantastic drama in a film that switches between the two on a consistent basis. It is absorbing to watch as you have no idea which of Billy’s lies is going to come next or what he is going to say.

Interposing all of this reality is the continuation regular fantasy sequences where we get to see the situations from Billy’s mind. These scenes allow a fantastic insight into Billy’s mind by do make the story drag out a little and the shots of ‘Army Billy’ shooting people become a little too repetitive you start to wonder if he’s going to become a mass murderer – then you remember that the films set in England not America.


The fantasy sequences however do serve an important purpose to the overall film as they allow the audience to instantly relate to Billy and to become totally engrossed in his character (this also thanks to the great performance by Courtenay). During the final sequence of the film there is such a sense of the inevitability of what’s going to happen but also a want for it to be different. So much so that I was almost shouting at the screen in my passion for Billy to improve his life. But alas the character does not progress and I guess that’s the point.


A sad look into British life, Billy Liar is a coming-of-age film in which the lead character chooses not to grow up.