Sweet Sixteen (2002)
Directed by Ken Loach
Written by Paul Laverty
Produced by Rebecca O’Brien, Michael AndrĂ©, Ulrich Felsberg, Gerardo Herrero, Luke Schiller, Peter Gallagher
Starring Martin Compston, Annmarie Fulton, William Ruane, Michelle Abercromby, Martin McCardie, Calum McAlees, Jon Morrison, Michelle Coulter, Gary McCormack, Tommy McKee, Robert Rennie, Junior Walker, Gary Maitland, Scott Dymond

“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself.”

–Simone de Beauvoir, Les Belles Images

Anticipating the release of his mother (Coulter) following the imprisonment she’s endured on behalf of her boorish boyfriend (McCormack), a tough, enterprising adolescent (Compston) and his madcap buddy (Ruane) strive to procure her respectable accommodation removed from sordid council estates by hawking cheap cigarettes, then pilfered heroin via the delivery service of his friends’ (Walker, Maitland, Dymond) pizzeria — first independently, then under the aegis of a stern mobster (Morrison). Loach’s idiomatic, kitchen sink realism trimly fits this funny, violent, ultimately piteous treatment of Scotland’s urban underclass with a blunt objectivity and forceful performances in Glaswegian accents that may for the inconversant necessitate subtitles. He’s still a paragon among social filmmakers for his consistently balanced depictions of societal dysfunction and its personal consequences, unifying character development with sociology rather than neglecting either (or worse, delivering dogmatic preachments behind the veneer of entertainment). Compston’s bastardly, audacious drug dealer is undone not by the risky criminality he perpetrates to effectuate his modest ambitions, but for a filial love as blind as unrequited, and the disloyalty pernicious in an anomic culture that stymies its young aspirants.

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