MY NAME IS JOE
Starring: Peter Mullan, Louise Goodall,
Gary Lewis, David McKay, &
Runtime: 104 minutes
Distributor: Artisan Entertainment
Director: Ken Loach
Producer: Rebecca O'Brien
Writer: Paul Laverty
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Cannes Film Festival winner Peter Mullin plays Joe Kavanaugh, an easy-going man in his mid to late thirties who coaches one of the local amateur soccer teams. The movie opens with Joe attending one of his AA meetings, where he announces to the other alcoholics in the meeting, "My name is Joe and I'm an alcoholic." He briefly tells his story, including his original reluctance to say these words. He then says he prays to God about his condition and hopes "to Christ" that he can stay sober. This early scene sets the stage for what follows. Will Joe be able to stay sober is an important question in the movie.
Immediately after the opening scene, the movie shows Joe with his soccer team of younger men. It is full of coarse male language, with a Scottish accent. When Joe drops off one of the soccer players, Liam, at Liam's apartment, he meets the government health inspector who comes to Liam's home to treat Liam and his wife, Sabine's, child. Joe develops an immediate liking for the health inspector, Sarah, who's about his same age. In another scene shortly thereafter, he agrees to wall-paper her house, even though by doing so, the government docks his regular welfare check. Why this able-bodied man cannot go looking for regular work is not explained in this movie.
Eventually, Joe tells Sarah about his alcoholism. He and Sarah develop a cozy romantic relationship that soon includes conjugal visits. Disrupting this happy scene is Liam's wife, Sabine, a former junkie who reverts to her former lifestyle. When she owes a lot of money to the local drug dealers, Joe tries to help his friend Liam by doing a couple of delivery jobs for the dealers. Sarah finds out about this and breaks off her relationship. Devastated, Joe tries to back out of his deal, but his efforts lead to violence and a tragedy.
Although it is much less politically didactic than Loach's last movie, CARLA'S SONG, MY NAME IS JOE is similar in that it takes a budding romance between two people and embroils them in a melodramatic adventure plot. This time, however, the shift is really intrusive and even more unbelievable, partly because of a couple silly confrontation scenes. Despite this, it was good to see one scene where Joe, faced with a harrowing situation, desperately prays, "Sweet Jesus, give me strength," then repeats the word Jesus 8 more times. Regrettably, Joe's prayer does not seem to be answered.
MY NAME IS JOE is also laced throughout its length with lots of strong foul language, dialogue which is spoken often by Joe and the other men but much less by Sarah and the other women in the story. MOVIEGUIDE counted nearly 300 obscenities and 31 mostly strong profanities. The movie also includes a bedroom scene with upper male and upper female nudity, some violence, a suicide, and a scene where Sabine uses a needle to take heroin. Although Joe eventually makes some positive moral choices in the movie, this is not enough to overcome the movie's other moral deficiencies.