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Sweet Sixteen

4.4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

A young man prepares for his mother's release from prison, which is just in time for his 16th birthday, by putting things from her life in order. In order to make money, he and his friends turn to some crazy schemes that get him into all sorts of trouble.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Martin Compston, Michelle Coulter, Annmarie Fulton, William Ruane, Michelle Abercromby
  • Directors: Ken Loach
  • Writers: Paul Laverty
  • Producers: Gerardo Herrero, Luke Schiller, Michael André, Peter Gallagher, Rebecca O'Brien
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: January 15, 2004
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000C2IQP
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,525 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Sweet Sixteen" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD
First of all, Sweet Sixteen is a strong movie because it stays true to Scotland, showing the modern Scotland with true accents coming from natives of the region. But more importantly, the movie and the plight of its main character, Liam, is true all over the world. Liam is a child who cares for little except his family; more particularly, he cares almost entirely for his drug-addicted and narcissistic mother. He tries to pull the pieces together and somehow force his family back together like stubbornly pairing repellant magnets. He does everything he can, even falling into the exact same path of drugs and violence that has ruined his family for generations, from his abusive grandfather to the maniac boyfriend of his mother. But he does it all for a noble cause, for the hope that underneath all the rubble a mother is a mother, and that there is something sacred and incorruptible about a mother and her love for her son.

Ultimately, we learn that love is not an unconditional thing and love does not come to life in a mother's heart when she gives birth. The film challanges our absolute standards, crossing barriers that are usually seen as too dangerous. Liam holds on to his dream throughout the film (until the end), the dream that some sense of morality can survive amidst the squalor of his drug-infested surroundings. But circumstance and fate can crush anything, and we are forced to part with our overly idealistic image of the selfless and loving mother in the face of poverty and danger.

Liam seems trapped throughout the entire movie, and it is clear that his fate will be dreary. The film does an excellent job of frequently portraying Liam as a prisoner, with shots of him looking through windows, pounding at doors in desparation, or waiting for some answer from behind a wall.
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Format: DVD
In Ken Loach's stark but richly rewarding "Sweet Sixteen", we follow events leading up to the sixteenth birthday of the resilient but reckless Liam as he tries to prepare a life and a home in anticipation of his incarcerated but soon-to-be-released mother's return.

Liam is portrayed by the perfectly cast Martin Compston, whose emotive face can seem so youthfully vibrant yet at the same time so weathered and world-weary. And apt visage aside, this first-time actor here proves himself to be one of the great young performers emerging in the cinematic world of late - his pitch-perfect portrayal of Liam is right up there with recent starmaking roles turned in by the likes of Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt.

Liam is joined in this film by his best friend and literal partner-in-crime Pinball (who's certainly no wizard, although is perhaps so named because of the way he careeningly drives the "borrowed" vehicles in which he joyrides). Pinball is ably portrayed by William Ruane, another previously unknown local who is also quite a find. Together the two boys try to find ways to survive and thrive amidst an environment in which the odds are greatly stacked against them.

The film is actually shot in Greenock, just down the Clyde river from Glasgow, a town where almost all the jobs have moved elsewhere, leading to few "legitimate" ways to earn money. A place where once-lovely but now dilapidated tower blocks are inhabited in equal measure by junkies and families. As Loach himself states in the appropriately spare commentary track (where long silences abound), it's a location where the visually spectacular scenery "contrasts rather sadly with the quality of life of many of the people who live there.
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