SWEET SIXTEEN is not sweet, but it is a powerful, cautionary tale with a tragic ending by famed leftist British director Ken Loach. Mr. Loach abandons his hard political edge to construct a violent, drug infested, foul mouthed, tragic movie about the drug scene in Scotland.
SWEET SIXTEEN opens with Liam, in a brilliant performance by Martin Compston, being told by his mother’s lover, Stan, and his grandfather to stuff drugs in his mouth so he can pass them to his mother in prison when they kiss. Liam refuses, even when his mother asks him to do so because he doesn’t want her to get more time in prison. On the way home, Stan and Liam’s grandfather pull Liam out of the car and beat and kick him violently while screaming the “F” word. When he walks home, all his meager belongings have been thrown out on the street.
Liam goes to his sister Chantelle’s apartment. Chantelle, played by Annmarie Fulton who gives such a powerful performance that it will make anyone weep, is the one beacon of light in the family. She has a young son, perhaps two years old, named Colum, and tells Liam not to curse or use drugs while he around Colum.
Liam and his friend Pinball don’t listen to Chantelle. They even take Colum on a frightening joyride. Liam decides he is going to take care of his Mom when she gets out of prison so he starts stealing and dealing drugs to make enough money to buy her a mobile home. She is due to be released in time for his 16th birthday, and he wants to surprise her. Liam is determined that this time things will be different. He dreams of a creating a safe haven beyond the reach of wasters like his Mom’s boyfriend Stan and his own mean-spirited grandfather.
After getting beaten to a pulp several times by irate drug addicts, Liam becomes so successful as a dealer, that the mob recruits him. He abandons Pinball, and Pinball retaliates by burning the mobile home Liam is buying. When Liam confronts Pinball, Pinball slashes his face with a knife.
Chantelle tries to tell Liam that his mom will not change. When Mom gets out, Liam gives her a beautiful apartment courtesy of the mob and a fabulous party. Mom, however, returns to Stan, and Liam knifes and kills Stan in a rage.
SWEET SIXTEEN is anti-drug, anti-swearing, anti-self-destruction, but uses all of the aforementioned “anti-s” in such a way as to almost promote what it claims to be against. The famous young actress Christina Ricci says that she learned how to be anorexic from television programs condemning anorexia. Susceptible youth may see this movie and say this looks like fun; or, at least a good way to make money. Furthermore, there is so much foul language in this movie that the “F” word is used with almost every breath.
Perhaps, English has been boiled down to a few choice obscenities. Many of the movies at the Cannes Film Festival were afflicted with a surplusage of “f” words. Interestingly enough, the name of Jesus as a curse was seldom heard last year at the Cannes Film Festival. Perhaps, sadly, He has been forgotten.
In any event, He needs to be remembered for He is the only solution to the vile paganism of the lower class in Great Britain. Liam is searching for answers that only Jesus Christ can provide.
The direction of this movie is terrific. The acting is superb. However, this is a depressing morality tale which would have had more impact if Mr. Loach had trimmed the foul language and violence and added the hope of Jesus Christ. The rule is surplusage vitiates.
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SUMMARY: SWEET SIXTEEN is about a homeless teenager in Scotland who starts stealing and dealing drugs to take care of his mother when she gets out of prison. Famed leftist director Ken Loach abandons his hard political edge to construct a violent, drug infested, foul mouthed, tragic movie about the drug scene in Scotland.
(HH, B, LLL, VVV, S, N, AA, DDD, M) Humanist worldview with moral message articulated by sister of young boy; close to 306 obscenities, most of which are the "F" word, and five profanities, some of which are exclamations; drug related and domestic violence, including a young boy being radically kicked and beaten by his mother's lover and his grandfather, later being beaten and kicked by a group of drug addicts for an extended period of time, young woman being strangle; boy being slapped, boy slices both sides of his face and bleeds profusely, sister treats horrible beating wounds on young brother, boy knifes mother's boyfriend, mobile home torched, and car crashed into building; kissing and discussions of sex; upper male nudity; alcohol abuse; drug dealing and abuse throughout; and, lying, crime, stealing, deception, and smuggling.