Sixteen Years of Alcohol (18)

Written and Directed by Richard Jobson
Screening at FACT from 10th September 2004

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Frankie Mac (Kevin McKidd) is a small-time thug who idolises Alex from A Clockwork Orange - though more for his ultraviolence and faithful droogs than his use of eyeliner. As Frankie lies bleeding in a dismal passageway, he pieces together his life - a story of love, loss and (of course) alcohol.

Through Frankie's eyes we see his first encounter with whisky, which coincides with the effective end of his parents' relationship. From there things get steadily worse, as his life spirals out of control in a haze of drink and barbarism. He falls in love twice - with stunning art graduate Helen (Laura Fraser) and Alcoholics Anonymous guardian angel Mary (Susan Lynch) - while he tries to tame his self-destructive demons. The ghosts of his past continually haunt him as he heads for that dank alley and his destiny.

Sixteen Years of Alcohol is the directorial debut of Richard Jobson (former frontman of Dunfermline punks The Skids), and he manages to combine sensitive storytelling with gritty atmospherics. The film is almost relentlessly dour, but there are some very funny moments, especially when Frankie cuts through the crap at an art gallery and annoys some pretentious poseurs in the process. Unfortunately, the narration is too self-consciously poetic, so judging by his gallery comments Frankie wouldn't think much of his own voiceover. Nonetheless, this is a striking and poignant look at vanquished hope and wasted youth.