Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Review: Sweet Sixteen (2002)

Newcomer Martin Compston is a revelation in Ken Loach's triumph.

Directed by Ken Loach
Produced by Rebecca O'Brien
Written by Paul Laverty
Starring Martin Compston, Michelle Coulter, Annmarie Fulton, William Ruane, Michelle Abercromby and Gary McCormack


Ken Loach's award-winning film is a brutal look at a Scottish working class teenager's struggle to make a better life for his family. Liam (Compston) is fighting to keep his loved ones together by any means necessary. His mother Jean (Coulter) is getting out of jail soon; his sister Chantelle (Fulton) has a kid to look after; and his stepfather Stan (McCormack) is an abusive drug dealer. With his prospects not high, he and his friend Pinball (Ruane) steal one of Stan's drug shipments and start their own business. Liam earns enough to put down a deposit on a mobile home, so his family can have a new place away from the bad influence of Stan. The dream might be simple enough, but getting there might just be impossible for Liam to achieve.

While I have only seen a few of his films, this ranks with Ken Loach's best work. His natural style of filmmaking lends itself well to fledgling actors, and it continues to work wonders in this film. In his acting debut, Martin Compston delivers one of the finest performances that 2002 had to offer. He plays Liam not as a mere thug, but as a struggling human being with conflicting emotions and a warm sensitivity. The performance floored me, as did the simple beauty of this hard drama. Also worth noting is Annemarie Fulton, a natural as Chantelle, who has yet to do another film, unfortunately. Barry Ackroyd's cinematography is a nice addition as well, bestowing a low-key, picturesque quality to the film's visual makeup. Though it received Best Screenplay at Cannes, Loach's powerful film deserves more praise, especially for Compton's phenomenal debut performance.

Oscar Tally: None


  1. I'm glad someone saw this and thinks highly of it. I saw this on TV a few years ago and I was very touched by it Especially Martin Compton's performance as here was someone who was quite tough but was also very sensitive. I think this is one of Ken Loach's finest films that goes up there with such greats as Kes and The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

    1. Glad to hear you're a fan as well. Compston is now my pick for Best Actor that year. He's just fantastic in that role. I'd put this film or Kes at the top of Loach's work, but I did like The Wind That Shakes the Barley too.

  2. This sounds really interesting! I'm going to have to look for it. Great review!