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Sweet Sixteen

It's you and Liam, against the world. 

Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is expected to have certain elements which are subtitled, but it is not expected that the entire film will contain them. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Director Ken Loach returns to the mean streets of Glasgow, Scotland, in "Sweet Sixteen", a thoughtful and studied look at a young man's attempt to escape the destiny paved for him by his family and environment. Emotions are rendered deeply and realistically, but unlike "All or Nothing", Mike Leigh's workng-class Cannes entry, Loach adds dollops of humour and hope to lighten the proceedings. The film is anchored by the amazing Martin Compston, a 17-year-old professional footballer who successfully navigates every turn in his character's emotional journey.

When we first meet the cantakerous but sweet Liam (Compston), he's charging money to look through his amateur space telescope, proof that he sees a world bigger than Scotland and he has the ability to drift his way toward it. Liam's mother Suzanne is marking time in prison and is scheduled to be released right before Liam's 16th birthday. Hoping for a better post-prison life for him and his mother, Liam sets his sights on buying a dilapidated trailer overlooking Clyde, where the two will live in peace. To buy the trailer, Liam and his friend Pinball (William Ruane) steal Suzanne's boyfriend's heroin, then begin selling it. This attracts the attention of the local drug kingpin, who likes Liam's moxie and makes him part of his business. However, once Liam takes his bite of the apple, events get more complicated and, inevitably, violent.

Paul Laverty pens his forth Loach film (including 1998's excellent "My Name is Joe") and once again his dialogue is faultless in its ability to stay street-level while also conveying the sorrow and hope integral to Loach's movies. Loach continues to elicit excellent work from his regulars including production designer Martin Johnson and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd.

Mark Keizer

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Screenings of this film:

2002/2003 Spring Term (35mm)