Sweet Sixteen
review by Carrie Gorringe, 20 June 2003

Seattle International Film Festival 2003

Ken Loach's Sweet Sixteen is a intricately-fashioned story of a restless adolescent named Liam (Martin Compston, in a performance that deserved to be described as "riveting") whose ne'er-do-well mother is due to be released from prison in slightly less than a month coincidentally, the day before his sixteenth birthday.  Desperate to remove his mother from the toxic confines of her drug-dealing boyfriend and his partner in crime, her equally pathological father, Liam shuns his traditional occupation of selling black-market cigarettes in favor of dealing drugs.  His hope is to purchase a small trailer in which he, his mother, his sister and nephew can live and recreate the family life he never had.  Liam's boldness does not go unnoticed;  the local drug kingpin, impressed by Liam's ambitiousness, recruits him and his friend to distribute their wares through a local chain of pizza parlors.  There are several problems, however, that he refuses to acknowledge, foremost among them his friend's increasing jealousy over Liam's newfound status, and his mother's ingrained self-destructiveness, both of which will bear serious consequences.  Loach's portrait of a young man fighting to overcome the serious constraints of his existence and those of his own family is full of the requisite touches of bleak humor and nave hopefulness that lift it above the sordid and into the realm of a Greek tragedy, all couched in the patois of working-class Glasgow (thank heavens for the subtitles).  Liam's inherently well-meaning nature overcomes the malignancy of the life in which he feels that he must subsist in order to save his family;  only too late do the implications of his actions become painfully clear.  It is a film that is both beautiful and painful to watch.


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Directed by:
Ken Loach

Starring:
Martin Compston
Annmarie Fulton
William Ruane
Michelle Abercromby
Michelle Coulter
Gary McCormack
Tommy McKee
Calum McAlees
Robert Rennie
Martin McCardie
Robert Harrison
George McNeilage
Rikki Traynor
Jon Morrison
Junior Walker

Written by:
Paul Laverty

Rated:
NR - Not Rated.
This film has not
been rated.

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