Determined to have a normal family life once his mother gets out of prison a scottish teenager from a tough background sets out to raise the money for a home. Studio: Lions Gate Home Ent. Release Date: 05/23/2006 Starri... more »ng: Martin Compston William Ruane Run time: 106 minutes Rating: R Director: Ken Loach« less
Poignant Picture of a Bitter/Sweet Life of a Boy in Scotland
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 05/31/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ken Loach, after his "Bread and Roses" set in USA, returns to the territory he knows well. "Sweet Sixteen" features the life of Liam, 15 years-old boy living in a small town in Scotalnd, who is waiting for his mother in prison to come back, and is desperate to make his "home" perfect for her when she is back with him. To do so, he is selling some stuffs illegally with his best friend, loose-cannon Pinball. But he never expected to what his latest scheme of selling drug is leading him and his family including his loving single-mother sister Chantelle.If you read the synopsis like this, you might expect this film is a dark, dreary one. The fact is different. "Sweet Sixteen" is a gritty drama about the youth who cannot grasp the reality surrounding him, it manages to transcend the darkness of it, and presents it in the most human, even tender light. The characters even bad ones are not flatly written, and the teenage-angst story escapes clithes found in usual "gangster" films. The film is inevitably played in a lower key with a sad feeling, but not so much as to depress you.The focal point of the film's sucess if of course Liam played by Martin Compston, who had no previous acting experiances (in fact, very few of the cast had it before the shooting of the film). And Compston was originally planning to be a professional footballer in Scotland, but is found out during the audition for the film (and he didn't want to go at first!). Director Ken Loach is famous for his skills in letting the actors give their very best, pros and non-pros alike, and people like Terrence Stamp, Robert Carlyle, or Peter Mulan have already testified to this fact, giving their superb acting in his films made in the past. Martin Compston, who succeeds in displaying the poignant portrait of a youth who with his good brain doesn't know what to do in his life, is more convincing than Ewan in "Trainspotting," and surely is one of the greatest finds Ken Loach made in his long career. In short, this boy can really act.Ken Loach, who slyly inserts his social messages in his films, is also a good storyteller and artist skilled in presenting the atomosphere of the place, and his Scotland looks very authentic. The characters speak many dirty words (and in thick Scottish accent) but don't be afraid of watching this film. Loach is political, to be sure, but that fact doesn't hinder us from watching the film as a great character study which is always powerful and bitter-sweet -- perhaps more bitter than sweet."
Wheelchair Assassin | The Great Concavity | 12/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Despite its title, "Sweet Sixteen" is one decidedly sour film. This movie isn't based on an Irvine Welsh novel, but with its gritty examination of tough Scottish street life, it might as well be. The movie centers around a fatherless high-school dropout who expects his family to become whole again when his mother finally gets out of prison. In the role of the teenaged protagonist Liam, Martin Compston turns in a brilliant performance that belies his youth. In the opening scene, we see what kind of situation Liam is dealing with: going to visit his mother in prison, her slimy father and her even slimier boyfriend Stan want Liam to pass her drugs to hook up her fellow inmates so that Stan can make a killing off their boyfriends. And when Liam refuses to do it, he winds up getting the hell beaten out of him by the side of the road. This is obviously a kid who's had the odds stacked against him from the beginning.Through Liam's story, "Sweet Sixteen" makes the rather depressing point that street life can claim even the best-intentioned among us. What makes the movie work is the ambiguity that Compston brings to his character, aided by a first-class script and some very dreary cinematography. Liam is neither a hero nor a villain; he's just a kid doing his best to live a normal life amid highly unenviable circumstances. And he'll do anything to achieve that normal life, even if it means selling heroin to afford a trailer for himself and his family. Of course, it should be obvious to most that drug-dealing is not the best path to normalcy and stability, but Liam's misguided nature is the very quality that makes him such a tragic and sympathetic figure. Throughout the movie, Liam paves the way to hell with his good intentions, as his naivete constantly puts him in over his head. He continually invests his time and money trying to provide for his mother and keep her away from Stan, even as it becomes increasingly apparent that she's a lost cause. He sticks by his best friend Pinball even as Pinball's dim wit threatens them both. Meanwhile, he alienates his sister Chantelle, who's the only person around him he can actually trust. You can't help but root for Liam, even as you're slapping your forehead at some of the things he does. He wants to be better than the likes of Stan and his grandfather, but he doesn't even know how.Although it does have its moments of humor, "Sweet Sixteen" is mostly a down note right until the bitter end. There's a sense of foreboding througout the film, as you can just tell that Liam is going to screw up in a big way. Still, if you're not averse to a little depression, you owe it to yourself to see this movie. I didn't always like what I was seeing, but I was glued to the screen just the same."
Welcome Scottish film
F. Mowbray | Larkhall, Scotland. | 02/12/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film, sadly, depicts the way of life for many people in Scotland (and indeed the UK in general) today, and to rubbish statements in other reviews, I would like to assure anybody who has seen or is interested in this film that it is genuine. I live in the West of Scotland and believe it or not this is for a large percentage of people here the culture - the way we speak (and the film I was pleased to see has this down to a tee) the violence, and the hopelessness. (I'm sorry to shatter any illusions).
The film is by no means a classic, it is far too realistic for that status. It does however make a decent story out of real life. Liam is in a desperate situation, his stepfather and grandfather have thrown him out of his home whilst his mother remains in prison. His dream is for when his (unbelievably depressing and frustrating) mother is realeased that he has a home ready for her away from her psychotic boyfriend. He sets his heart on a 6000 pound caravan overlooking the water, and goes about dealing drugs with his best pal Pinball to achieve his ambition. The further he goes down this route however, the more he digs himself a hole and gets caught up in some very ugly situations.
The film has a clear message for economists - poverty and depravity is a major situation, as for the vast majority there is no way out. The fact that this film is shot all on location, people should really sit up and take notice of this fact.
Overall it is very refreshing to see a Scottish film getting the plaudits it deserves. Recommended if you think you can face the harsh reality of life. 4/5."
Oustanding on so many levels, but be ready for a tough one
Patrick J Hayden | Boston, MA United States | 08/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, Sweet Sixteen is a strong movie because it stays true to Scotland, showing the modern Scotland with true accents coming from natives of the region. But more importantly, the movie and the plight of its main character, Liam, is true all over the world. Liam is a child who cares for little except his family; more particularly, he cares almost entirely for his drug-addicted and narcissistic mother. He tries to pull the pieces together and somehow force his family back together like stubbornly pairing repellant magnets. He does everything he can, even falling into the exact same path of drugs and violence that has ruined his family for generations, from his abusive grandfather to the maniac boyfriend of his mother. But he does it all for a noble cause, for the hope that underneath all the rubble a mother is a mother, and that there is something sacred and incorruptible about a mother and her love for her son.
Ultimately, we learn that love is not an unconditional thing and love does not come to life in a mother's heart when she gives birth. The film challanges our absolute standards, crossing barriers that are usually seen as too dangerous. Liam holds on to his dream throughout the film (until the end), the dream that some sense of morality can survive amidst the squalor of his drug-infested surroundings. But circumstance and fate can crush anything, and we are forced to part with our overly idealistic image of the selfless and loving mother in the face of poverty and danger.
Liam seems trapped throughout the entire movie, and it is clear that his fate will be dreary. The film does an excellent job of frequently portraying Liam as a prisoner, with shots of him looking through windows, pounding at doors in desparation, or waiting for some answer from behind a wall. In a way, he is cut off from nourishment. He cannot automatically recieve love from his mother; he has to knock on a door and beg for it. All of Liam's pure and natural reflexes are put on hold.
The film is superb, and I strongly recommend it. Still, you should know that this film is not for the fain of heart. It's tragic, and even more than that, it's frustrating. It challenges your ethics in every way; it makes you say, "That shouldn't be! That CAN'T be!" But it is. Either you will watch and accept what you see or you will be overcome by the frustrations and decide that the film is lying to you, that what you see cannot be true. Therefore, the film will not be popular for everyone. It is tough to handle, so be prepared."
Patrick J Hayden | 01/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"having read the reviews here i can concur with those that question whether such a gritty film had to be made. But i do so perhaps for different reasons - i come from the town in question (Greenock) and can assure you it DOES reflect life as it can be in a town rife with unemployment and populated by many who dont have a clue what tomorrow will bring. Dark it is. Gritty too. But dont question its reality - if you want escapism dont watch it, but as a portrayal of life in many parts of the UK it hits the mark - and with a fair amount of humour too."