Cold, depressing and realistic, Sweet Sixteen is bitter tale of a cycle unbroken. Can anyone, let alone the poor, ever achieve a goal of shattering that progression? Are we all destined to be what we are? And can family history and your past be left behind? I enjoyed this film immensely, reminded often of how people may change, but situations remain the same. Liam (played wonderfully by the handsome, athletic and very natural Martin Compston) knows his destiny. And, like his sister, knows there is a better life. But unlike Chantelle, Liam is willing to sell his soul to get it. While Chantelle studies hard at school, bring up her adorable son Calum, Liam will risk his own life to make his imprisoned mothers life better when she gets out in a few months, a day before his sweet 16 Birthday. But, reality sets in when he realizes what he must do to get that life. And while he's willing to do it, it is slowly killing his soul.
The films coldness works, as the sun is never seen. It reminds us that Liam, and the life of many in Glasgow (and really, this could be any town in any country), are not what movies are made about. It shows with laser point accuracy for some, the only way to "move on up" is to sell what little humanity you have left. Liam's sister knows the true way to succeed, but that's not for Liam. He loves his sister, his nephew and his mom, but Chantelle is disappointed that Liam cannot see the forest for the trees.
And, like so many, he learns too late that maybe his sister is right. Maybe her bitterness at her mother is justified (as Jean proves it by going back to her hateful boyfriend, Stan) and maybe there is away out of the hell you born into.
The cast is wonderful, led my Compston's Liam. Annmarie Fulton is the sister who must protect her son and brother, but feels she is losing him. Michelle Coulter is the mother you've seen on every episode of COPS and who continues to return to the one place that is perhaps, the worse place to be. Gary McCormack is the typical villain of sorts. His Stan is filled with so much hate, that you can understand why Liam would not want to be near him. But William Ruane stands out as Liam's best friend Pinball. He too is a lost soul, but finds himself on the short end of the stick. He tries to be like Liam, but finds that his destiny is no where near his best bud.
Finally, if you rent or buy this film, watch it with the captions on. The thick Scottish accent almost makes this film a foreign language contender. Still, it's a brilliant film that demands you to watch. It may last only 108 minutes, but you'll be thinking about it long after the credits have rolled.