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16 Years of Alcohol

26 August 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Edinburgh International Film Festival

EDINBURGH, Scotland -- "16 Years of Alcohol" is a full-flavored, absorbing tragedy of a young man's life of booze-driven violence. Told in flashback with a searching and often poetic narrative voice-over, it is a grim tale that has many evocative treasures along the way. Written and directed by Richard Jobson and starring Kevin McKidd in a memorably vital performance, the film tells the tale of one individual confronting traits both inherited and taught.

Unlikely to please a wide audience, "16 Years of Alcohol", which was awarded a special commendation by the Edinburgh jury, should do very well on the festival and art house circuit. It also establishes first-timer Jobson as a filmmaker who will have a substantial contribution to make.

Making full use of Edinburgh locations, the film shows the city's ancient stone buildings, steeply stepped alleyways and cobbled streets in a way that become part of the fabric of the story. We first meet Frankie (McKidd) as he is being chased down one of those alleys by three men who quickly put the boot in. As Frankie lies on the ground kicked, pummeled and bleeding, we hear him in voice-over: "Sometimes for some people things don't work out the way they might have hoped."

That's an understatement as we soon see from three extended flashbacks that make up almost the entire movie. First, there's Frankie as a kid Iain De Caestecker), watching his adored father as he romances his mother. He joins Frankie playing cowboy shoot-ups and sings handsomely in the local pub. Then Frankie spies his dad (Lewis Macleod) leaving a pub with a pretty blonde and discovers them rutting against a wall. His home becomes a place of fighting, screaming and broken dishes. At the pub, his dad buys him whisky.

By the time Frankie is a teenager, he's a thug, bullying and fighting with a trio of other thugs, including the resentful, nasty Miller Stuart Sinclair Blyth). He has a poster of "A Clockwork Orange" on his wall. Only when he meets a pretty record-shop girl named Helen (Laura Fraser) does he begin to question his life of violence and alcohol.

Things improve until an encounter with patronizing snobs at an art gallery provokes a response in him that is primitive and brutal. This causes Helen to flee from him. "The more familiar you are with hope, the less beautiful it becomes," Frankie the narrator says.

Still, he determines to change: "You can't escape who you are. You can only try to be a better person." He attends Alcoholics Anonymous and meets a similarly bruised woman, Mary (Susan Lynch). They join an amateur acting group. While he has to fight his hostility, Frankie appears to be gaining on his fate. Then a misunderstanding leads him down a false path and another encounter with the vengeful Miller and his cronies.

Jobson's work is deeply involving with beautifully framed images, haunting montages and a soundtrack that enhances the impact. The players have been well cast, especially Macleod's charming rogue of a father and the two women in Frankie's life.

McKidd carries the weight of the leading role squarely and delivers the narration in rich Scottish tones that bring an added power and depth to lines about love being "a place where people lost and lost badly" and about life being where "someone always has to pay that's the rule, the only rule."

16 YEARS OF ALCOHOL

A Tartan Works production with backing from Scottish Screen and the Fortissimo Film Sales Group

Credits: Director-writer: Richard Jobson

Producers: Hamish McAlpine, Mark Burton

Executive producers: Steve McIntyre, Michael J. Werner, Wouter Barendrecht

Director of photography: John Rhodes

Production designer: Adam Squires

Music: Keith Ateck

Costume designer: Carole Millar

Editor: Ioannis Chalkiadakis

Cast:

Frankie (teenager/man): Kevin McKidd

Helen: Laura Fraser

Mary: Susan Lynch

Miller: Stuart Sinclair Blyth

Budgie: Michael Moreland

Kill: Russell Anderson

Frankie (boy): Iain De Caestecker

Frankie's Father: Lewis Macleod

Frankie's Mother: Lisa May Cooper

Running time -- 102 minutes

No MPAA rating »

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