16 Years Of Alcohol

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Movie Review by Stephen Doyle

Starring: Ewen Bremner, Laura Fraser, Susan Lynch, Kevin McKidd

Director: Richard Jobson

16 YEARS OF ALCOHOL is an unflinching and intense account of the life of a violent alcoholic. The alcoholic in question is Frankie Mac, a complex character impressively brought to life by Kevin McKidd (who is probably still best remembered as Tommy from TRAINSPOTTING). The film charts three different stages of Frankie’s life. Firstly we see him as a happy child who quickly goes off the rails when he discovers his father is not the hero Frankie imagined him to be, but rather an adulterer and a liar. As a result of this unfortunate realisation, Frankie becomes a precocious heavy drinker.

In this first stage Frankie is played by a child actor (Ian de Caestecker). The next stage of the film focuses on Frankie as a violent teenager, and sees Kevin McKidd taking over the role as Frankie – although it is a mild criticism that, in this period of the film, Frankie and his ‘teenage’ friends are all played by actors who look like they are well into their thirties. This incongruity aside, this part of the film is very effective. Frankie, taking his inspiration from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and Bruce Lee, has turned into a ruthless and violent thug. He and his gang terrorise the local community, until he meets Helen, a sassy art student who works in the local record shop. He embarks on a relationship with her, which ends messily.

The final part of the film shows Frankie as an adult. He is desperately trying to reform his violent character, has given up alcohol and has turned his hand to amateur dramatics. Needless to say, things do not turn out as Frankie would have wished.

There is a lot to commend about 16 YEARS OF ALCOHOL. This is writer and director Richard Jobson’s debut, and it will be interesting to see how his career progresses from here. He tells his story in an experimental style which, for the most part, works rather well. There is a curious and arty juxtaposition of images and scenes throughout the film (reminiscent of Tarkovsky) which means interest in the film never flags. The performances throughout are committed and of a high standard.

The bad news for Jobson, however is that, right from the beginning, a handful of flaws soon make themselves apparent. Chief among these is the voiceover from Frankie throughout the film. Jobson has said he tried to achieve poetry with Frankie’s metaphysical monologues in the voiceover, but the narration mostly comes across as heavy-handed, wordy and pretentious. The voiceover begins along the lines of ‘My name is Frankie and this is my story…’ (yuk), and then proceeds throughout the film with much repetitive musing on themes such as hope, dreams, death, alcohol and so on. To see how weak the narration is, it only has to be compared to the witty, inventive and captivating voiceover from another Scottish tale of violence and addiction – namely Renton’s voiceover in TRAINSPOTTING. This disappointment aside 16 YEARS OF ALCOHOL is an attractive looking film that is well worth catching.

4 out of 6 stars