Sweet Sixteen

After venturing to L.A. for BREAD AND ROSES (2000), a sincere examination of the plight of Mexican migrant workers, British director Ken Loach and Scottish screenwriter Paul Laverty return to more familiar ground with this gripping tale of a Scottish teenager's tragically misguided attempts to protect his mother from a life of drugs and petty crime. Young...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

After venturing to L.A. for BREAD AND ROSES (2000), a sincere examination of the plight of Mexican migrant workers, British director Ken Loach and Scottish screenwriter Paul Laverty return to more familiar ground with this gripping tale of a Scottish teenager's tragically misguided attempts to protect his mother from a life of drugs and petty crime. Young Liam (Martin Compston) is about to turn 16, but there's a much more important date on the horizon. His mother, Jean (Michelle Coulter), is about to be released from prison, and this time Liam means to keep her far away from the influence of her loutish, drug-dealing boyfriend, Stan (Gary McCormack). After being thrown out of Stan's house for refusing to help smuggle joints to Jean during a recent visit, Liam moves in with his sister, Chantelle (Annmarie Fulton). Like her brother, Chantelle is hoping for a better life for herself, but her future plans are rooted in the present-day realities of single-motherhood and a depressed job market. She's currently enrolled in a call-center class and will soon be able to support herself and her baby with a decent paying job. Liam's dreams are airier and far grander: He hopes to purchase a two-bedroom mobile home on a remote stretch of shoreline where he and Jean can plan picnics and live safely out of Stan's reach. But even Liam realizes that his current gig selling generic cigarettes in the local pubs will never cover the £6,000 price tag, so he and his best friend, Pinball (William Ruane), concoct a daring plan: They steal Stan's stash of heroin and hawk it on the street. When he starts cutting into another dealer's client base, Liam attracts the notice of local drug lord Tony (Martin McCardle), who operates out of a flashy health club. Impressed by Liam's gumption, Tony puts him to work selling drugs around town, drawing the boy deeper into the same dead-end life that landed Jean in prison. Far more than yet another cautionary tale about where roads paved with good intentions invariably lead, Loach's film is an enormously sympathetic conflation of two pet themes: the effect of grinding poverty on the ever weakening working class and his nation's all-too vulnerable youth. Dabbed with sentimental touches, the film nevertheless avoids facile victim psychologizing and pulls no punches: Loach and Laverty clearly show the damage Liam is causing his community by trying to save his mother and no one, not even Liam, is let off the hook.

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: R
  • Review: After venturing to L.A. for BREAD AND ROSES (2000), a sincere examination of the plight of Mexican migrant workers, British director Ken Loach and Scottish screenwriter Paul Laverty return to more familiar ground with this gripping tale of a Scottish teena… (more)

Show More »