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16 Years Of Alcohol
cast: Kevin McKidd, Laura Fraser, Susan Lynch, Jim Carter, and Ewen Bremner

writer and director: Richard Jobson

102 minutes (18) 2004
widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Ten-year-old Frankie idolises his apparently happy parents; but when he discovers the truth about his father's womanising, the disillusionment drives him to experiment with drink. Within a few years, he's a hooligan, picking fights and running wild in Edinburgh's picturesque but tough back streets. An encounter with a girl who actually has something to live for changes him: but his fear of betrayal destroys their relationship, and sends him into a downward spiral. Alcoholics Anonymous, acting classes, and new love begin to drag him back towards the light - but can there really be any escape from his past?

Richard Jobson's highly personal debut feature, adapted from his own novel, is a grim but totally captivating tale of Scottish working class culture through the 1970s and 1980s, as personified in our sensitive but emotionally stunted hero. Kevin McKidd gives a fantastic performance as Frankie, drawing us into the life of a character that could easily have been self-pitying or unsympathetic, even investing the overly poetic voiceover with a passionate realism. The film is also beautifully shot, utilising the grimy splendour of Edinburgh's gothic alleys and smoke-blackened pubs.

It might not be perfect - the 'working class boy meets posh girl and derides her arty friends' scenes smack of cliché, and the portentous voiceover can be annoying, and rather too self-aware for someone so out of touch with their feelings - but 16 Years Of Alcohol is an accomplished, absorbing, and powerful film from a director with great potential. Highly recommended.

DVD extras comprise an interesting director's commentary, a comprehensive run through the storyboards, with soundtrack; a decent behind the scenes feature made by BBC Scotland; and a trailer reel.

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