Sweet Sixteen (Cert 18)


Ken Loach cares about characters whom most of us would cross the road to avoid, and that's the main strength of Sweet Sixteen.

It finds pathos in the exuberance of 15-year-old petty criminal Liam (charismatically played by the unknown Martin Compston) living on a housing estate in Greenock.

He dreams of being able to buy a caravan and support his drug-addled mother (Michelle Coulter) as soon as she's out of jail, and his sister Chantelle (Annmarie Fulton), a 17-year-old who is (I need hardly say) a single mum.

Liam uses his entrepreneurial skills to become a pusher and rise in the criminal hierarchy.

Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty clearly intend this to be an ironic commentary on capitalism and the kind of personal economic advancement that they as Socialists find unacceptable.

Unfortunately, the Glaswegian accents - subtitled during the first 15 minutes - render most of the dialogue completely incomprehensible.

Just audible, however, is the greatest onslaught of swear words I can recall in any film, let alone one financed by the BBC.

The atmosphere is relentlessly miserable. No positive solutions are envisaged. Most damaging of all is the predictability of the plot.

If Loach and Laverty went to the movies more, they would have seen virtually every character and event duplicated in some other miserabilist film. The result is a tedious compendium of housing estate cliches that never rises above the level of agit-prop.

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