When his old-fashioned movie palace is set to close, due to dwindling audiences, an unpaid mortgage and the changing tides of the world, Harry throws a grand party to save it.
His daughter Lily tries to be supportive, but she is struggling to manage her aging father’s whims. An offer on the theater is generous and would guarantee an easy, secure retirement for Harry, but he’s having a hard time letting go of his long-cherished dream. When the night of the party arrives and Harry realizes the limitations of his dream, Lily must come to the rescue in more than one way, as her father grapples with the tug between idealism and acceptance.
Writer-director Jill Sachs’s charming family drama has a heartwarming, almost old-fashioned quality to it, with its classical sense of craftsmanship and its gentle and engaging depiction of a father-daughter relationship at a moment when their dynamic shifts.
Many aspects of the craft seem to take its cue from the gorgeous, ornate old-fashioned movie theater that gives the film its name. The visuals are often stately and well-composed, with warm burnished colors and elegant camera movements, and the pacing and storytelling takes its time, soaking in the nuances of the characters and setting.
Like the Liberty itself, the film is removed from the hustle and bustle of modern life, existing in a bubble that is less nostalgic than more cordoned off in its own world. The pared-down dialogue and sound add to this sense of hush, though a quietly evocative and plaintive piano score adds rich dimension without dominating the overall storytelling experience.
Actors Amelia Morck and Michael Chieffo as daughter and father keep their performances on the understated side as well, though their connection as father and daughter feels warm and palpable. Nostalgic glances back in time build up their history and bond, but the narrative focuses on how their pair move into the future together, navigating the loss of a long-time dream while growing richer in understanding and love.
“The Liberty” is an ode to classic cinema and moviegoing, but it deftly uses its sense of a hushed, vanishing world to underline the larger emotional arcs of the characters. Harry himself seems beholden to his past and his dreams, holding on even as the world changes around him and his beautiful movie theater. It takes his daughter’s unvarnished honesty, along with her steadfast love, to let go of his dreams of the past, all the while paying tribute to the greatest love of his life.