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Sweet Sixteen Review

By Shawn McKenzie 06/20/2003

Ken Loach is a British director who has been making films since the ‘60s, and until his latest one, Sweet Sixteen, I hadn’t seen any of them.  Unlike other foreign directors, Loach hasn’t migrated to Hollywood.  This latest movie helmed by Loach is certainly not Hollywood by any standards, which I applaud, though there is one thing about it that I wish was slightly Hollywood.


Liam (Martin Compston) is a Scottish teen who is about to turn 16-years-old in a few weeks.  His mother, Jean (Michelle Coulter), is in jail, and is scheduled to be released right before his 16th birthday.  His life has been filled with drugs and crime and he wants to make things different when his mom gets out.  There is a caravan overlooking the ocean that he wants to buy for her that costs 6,000 pounds, but his current way of making money, selling stolen cigarettes with his best friend Pinball (William Ruane), isn’t exactly raking in the dough.  Even though he wants to get out of crime and drugs, he figures that crime and drugs are going to have to help him first.  He gets the bright idea to steal a stash of drugs from his grandfather, Rab (Tommy McKee), and his mother’s scummy boyfriend, Stan (Gary McCormack), and sell them himself.  Things are going fine until Liam treads on the ground of a local mob boss named Tony (Martin McCardie), who is ticked off that Liam is taking away business from him.  Instead of retaliating, he offers Liam a job pushing drugs for him because he sees the potential in the kid’s earnings and the fact that Liam doesn’t use the drugs he sells.  Liam is soon able to put a down payment on the caravan, and he looks forward to living there with his mother and possibly his sister, Chantelle (Annmarie Fulton), and her son, Calum (Calum McAlees.)  He also thinks he might have a chance with Chantelle’s friend Suzanne (Michelle Abercromby.)  Things are going great until Pinball starts messing up, forcing Tony to make demands on Liam that he doesn’t want to do.  Liam must deal with Pinball, smooth the rocky relationship between Jean and Chantelle, and keep Jean away from Stan, who tends to bring out the worst in her.  This is a lot for a kid who is almost 16-years-old.


What aspect of the film do I wish was a little more Hollywood?  The wrapping up of loose ends is what I’m looking for here.  It is a foreign film trend to end a film without answering all the questions brought up by it.  I am by no means saying that a movie has to have a happy ending, but I usually don’t like to be left hanging.  Without giving away the end of the movie, let’s just say that the fates of several characters are not told.  Looking over Loach’s resume, he isn’t the type that makes a sequel, so we will never know what happened to those characters.


On the plus side, the acting is incredible, especially that of Compston.  Loach may never come to America, but I hope this talented kid does (though he will have to learn to speak English that doesn’t have to be subtitled.  Yes, the Scottish accents are so thick that subtitles were provided to understand what they were saying.)

Sweet Sixteen is not your typical Hollywood blockbuster.  It might frustrate you in its non-resolution of plotlines, but if you want to see some truly great acting with a good story, check this one out if it comes to your town.

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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