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on 21 February 2005
First things first (and this may be important): "Sweet Sixteen" is NOT set in a "Glaswegian suburb" of ANY description. Greenock and Gourock are referred to several times throughout the film. It is set, and filmed, mostly in Greenock - a town at the mouth of the Clyde, 20 miles west of Glasgow. One of the main ironies that I think the film tries to address is that, until about 25 years ago, Greenock had fairly low unemployment. : youths like Liam entered the shipyards or engineering workshops (the town's main employers) after leaving school. Until the Thatcher government arrived on the scene, that is. The Tory economic policy of the time was to use high unemployment as a weapon against the working class to keep costs down, whilst all the time talking about "encouraging entrepreneurial activity". All of the Greenock shipyards closed in the 80s and heroin became the new big business in the run-down towns of west central Scotland.

The "entrepreneurs" in "Sweet Sixteen" are the drugs dealers and they make it quite clear that they wouldn't be so idiotic as to use the stuff themselves. Liam and Pinball think that they can become 'entrepreneurs', just like the local drugs suppliers, but they are only "streetwise", too young and without any sense of the real brutality which the opposition will use without a pang of remorse.

Even though I live in Greenock, it opened my eyes to the 'underclass' that obviously permeates our society. A depressing story, but one that had to be told.

[Based on a viewing of the film on tv, I will certainly buy the dvd. When the film was broadcast, it was slated for the intrusive subtitles which, after all, are not provided for the likes of "Coronation Street". I just hope that subtitles are an OPTION on the dvd].
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on 17 April 2006
A dark and harrowing film which follows an optimistic teenager in the drug-infested culture of the housing estates in Greenock in the West of Scotland. Liam wants to make a better life for himself, and his mother when she is released from prison, but to do that he needs money... His ambition and naivety quickly lead him out of his depth, but his vision that things really could be better means that he can't back away. Powerful stuff, and definitely worth watching - especially for the outstanding début performance by Martin Compston as Liam.
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on 31 January 2008
I am astonished I'm the first person to post a review on this masterpiece ! I'm french an in my country, Ken Loach is admired as the great film maker he truly is. And in my point of view, this film is perhaps his best, because even if you disagree with his political view, you will be deeply moved by the principal character. Great plot, great actors, it is human, complex, beautiful and captivating. Please watch it. Vive Ken Loach.
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on 20 August 2006
Despite its title, "Sweet Sixteen" is one decidedly sour film. This movie isn't based on an Irvine Welsh novel, but with its gritty examination of tough Scottish street life, it might as well be. The movie centers around a fatherless high-school dropout who expects his family to become whole again when his mother finally gets out of prison. In the role of the teenaged protagonist Liam, Martin Compston turns in a brilliant performance that belies his youth. In the opening scene, we see what kind of situation Liam is dealing with: going to visit his mother in prison, her slimy father and her even slimier boyfriend Stan want Liam to pass her drugs to hook up her fellow inmates so that Stan can make a killing off their boyfriends. And when Liam refuses to do it, he winds up getting the hell beaten out of him by the side of the road. This is obviously a kid who's had the odds stacked against him from the beginning.

Through Liam's story, "Sweet Sixteen" makes the rather depressing point that street life can claim even the best-intentioned among us. What makes the movie work is the ambiguity that Compston brings to his character, aided by a first-class script and some very dreary cinematography. Liam is neither a hero nor a villain; he's just a kid doing his best to live a normal life amid highly unenviable circumstances. And he'll do anything to achieve that normal life, even if it means selling heroin to afford a trailer for himself and his family. Of course, it should be obvious to most that drug-dealing is not the best path to normalcy and stability, but Liam's misguided nature is the very quality that makes him such a tragic and sympathetic figure.

Although it does have its moments of humor, "Sweet Sixteen" is mostly a down note right until the bitter end. There's a sense of foreboding througout the film, as you can just tell that Liam is going to screw up in a big way. Still, if you're not averse to a little depression, you owe it to yourself to see this movie. I didn't always like what I was seeing, but I was glued to the screen just the same.

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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 November 2014
You have to hand it to Ken Loach, his films are like no other, and he always captures a moving tale brilliantly, with plenty of grit and black humour. 'Sweet Sixteen' hit the cinemas in 2002, and became a critically acclaimed success.

The film centres around Liam (Martin Compston in his debut), a typical teenage Scottish lad from a tough working class background, who is determined to have a normal family life once his mother gets out of prison. He sets out to raise the money for a home in a quiet village, but needs the money to do it. Crazy schemes lead to trouble, and Liam finds himself dangerously out of his depth, digging a hole he just can't get out of. We as the viewer feel for him, and it is largely due to Martin's strong acting, and Loach's faultless portrayal of the bleak life people in poverty face.

When you watch a Ken Loach film, you can imagine everything that is taking place on the screen as being true, like viewing a documentary, because his movies are so realistic. 'Sweet Sixteen' is a great little film, depressing, moving, and one you'll want to see again.
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on 13 April 2003
In contrast to most other Loach movies I have seen, Sweet Sixteen (as the title very well suggests) deals with youth. Even though it is social critique at its best and thus does not portray the brightest sides of life, its dark tone is sometimes made actually much worse by the fact that it has a 15-year old in the focus. Sometimes Liams youthfulness and optimism (yes, in my opinion, he does not lose faith in better future at least until the end titles) makes you forget that everything that looks/seems bright is disturbingly crime-connected.
Unlike most of the drug-related movies, it concentrates on the non-user smalldealer, and the seeming unavailability of options between lawful and unlawful 'career'.
Overall, I think the movie is one of Loach's best. It still has the documentaristic touch, but the strong and moving story plus the Scottish setting make it somewhat more 'artistic'. I think the English subtitles to Scottish accent on DVD are really useful. Actually, during the starting minutes I even thought that they were not speaking English at all, but that can also be partially due to the fact that I'm no native speaker either.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 January 2015
This is a terrific film. Liam, almost 16, lives in Greenock. His father is a drug dealer, his mother is in prison and he and his sister Chantelle, with whom he is very close, have spent some of their childhood in a children's home. His mum is due out soon and his dearest wish is to stay with her and get some stability and - though he might not express it in this way - love into his life. He is quick-witted and fearless (partly a consequence of caring little for himself and therefore accepting pain and punishment when they come along) and finds ingenious but dangerous ways of achieving his goals, with some success. But there is a feeling throughout that his best efforts are doomed - the odds are just stacked too heavily against him. We feel for him, and for Chantelle and her little son Callum, but the narrative plays itself out inexorably and convincingly to an unhappy conclusion.

Filmed on location in Greenock. the film has the ring of truth. It is extremely gritty and the dialogue, which never sounds less than real, is heavily peppered with expletives. In Martin Compston, who plays Liam, it has an extraordinary talent who has made a highly successful career for himself since this, his debut, but the cast is uniformly strong. In places it is funny, but the overall impression is of struggle - not hopelessness ; the characters are too resourceful for that - but certainly of a deadening environment from which escape is difficult, if perhaps not impossible. It grips you, it is very good cinema ; it is Ken Loach at his best.
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on 17 January 2015
In the opening scene, Liam (Martin Compston), a boy of 15 approaching 16, charges children a small sum of money to look at stars and planets through his prized telescope. This scene establishes a sense of wonderment, of childhood innocence even, that is destroyed as the film progresses. When Liam is driven by his grandad and stepdad to prison to visit his mother and to smuggle drugs into prison, Liam refuses and is evicted from his grandad's flat with his telescope smashed. Thus ends Liam's childhood. The only hope left is life with his soon-to-be-released mum. The rest of the film relates the lengths Liam is prepared to go in order to save up enough money to buy a caravan and set up home with his mum. Liam deals in drugs, betrays his best friend, is even prepared to kill. And yet he has a good heart. This film is therefore an examination of whether immoral means can ever justify ends that are pure and good, and whether it is wise to focus exclusively on the object of love and devotion. The final tragedy (spoiler alert ! ) is Liam's mother choosing the stepfather over Liam.
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on 5 February 2006
Good to see Ken Loach back on form.Sweet Sixteen comes across as if it was documentary....a Loach hallmark.It is nonetheless a carefully crafted tragedy with its inevitable relentless progress to the tagic climax of a wasted life.
The film pulls few punches either with the authenticity of the dialect or the sheer despair of the lives it portrays.It is again a la roach a very political film....a seering indictment of the aftermath of the Thatcher years.It is hard to recomend this film as enjoyable entertainment but there is no doubt thaT IT IS AN IMPORTANT AND WONDERFULLY EXECUTED WORK.
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on 19 July 2015
Overwhelming loyalties in a tough Greenock environment left me shaken & stirred. Even criminality in a seemingly dysfunctional social environment has tough honest moral lessons to challenge anybody's judgmental hypocrisy. Stunning scenery showcases the courage and wasted youth our wretched politicians ignore at their peril. Please watch this, and feel guilty and breathless as I do at how we ignore social deprivation at our peril too..another magnificent Kenneth Loach plea for social action now!
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