Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
a tough film, but has integrity
on 1 April 2015
SPOILERS! ONLY READ IF YOU"VE SEEN THE FILM
Sweet Sixteen is a very good film, certainly, and one that presents a remarkably evenhanded view of 15-year-old Liam. By the end he has done some terrible things, the precise extent of which remains vague; however it is clear that he is not, at heart, a bad person. I did wonder whether Ken Loach hasn't made him fit too wide a character description, in fact, as if he has been pieced together identikit-style, to suit the plot. At the party for his mother he seems to have completely put his recent action out of his mind, and his affection for his sister and mother seems to jar with the hardheartedness he shows at other times. The first alert to this comes when he is prepared to kill a man in a toilet just because he has been told to. The blame is fundamentally on those who put him up to it, of course, but nevertheless he is pretty blameworthy as well. Of course we see examples of this kind of thing in the media all the time, and worse; but here it works against the empathy we may otherwise feel. Perhaps this is a good thing, but it makes for a very grim picture. The final shot of Liam on the beach is surely a homage to Truffaut's The 400 Blows, but here his feet are stuck in mud, and he certainly isn't running, his copybook has been so blotted. It could also be compared to Loach's own Kes from over 30 years before; Liam may only be a year older, but the moral ills are altogether of a different order. Perhaps this is a reflection of the change in society in that time. At all events, it is a tough film, and doesn't have the poetry of the earlier work. There is nothing to set against the awful succession of events we witness, except for the appeal of youth itself, which is so distorted by these events as to be completely of no consequence. Having said that, Martin Compston is outstanding as the lead as is Annmarie Fulton as his sister and William Ruane as his friend Pinball - the difference between the two is painfully shown in a way that cannot fail to disturb the viewer.