16 Years of Alcohol Reviews
"16 Years of Alcohol" explores one man's battle against the social and psychological ravages of alcoholism. The film is split into three sections: Frankie's troubled childhood, his violent adolescence as a ska-loving skinhead who commands a small gang, and a period of change, in which Frankie tries to believe in hope and love. The backdrop of historic Edinburgh set the feeling and environment in which we see Frankie´s violent demise as a human being and the resurrection that still ends with his past catching up with him. It´s a balance between hope and hopelessness in his life, and the end is left open to the viewer. I saw "16 Years of Alcohol" some years ago, and re-seeing it now doesn´t change my opinion about this movie. It´s such a strong and emotional story that goes through the screen. The homage to "A Clockwork Orange" is done in a great way and I do love the voice-over from Kevin McKidd and the philosophical narrative. Kevin McKidd is excellent as Frankie Mack and the beautiful Laura Fraser as Helen is a great counterpart to Frankie. The soundtrack adds to the storyline as well.
The artistic attempts of writer/director and former Skids band-member Richard Jobson are what make the biggest impression - hypnotically beautiful images of Edinburgh and a voice-over in that recognisable cadence, with repeating cycles of words drawing out every ounce of meaning from clichés like "hope"... He skirts cliché while playing with it, trying to show the violence endemic in that society and making many references to other films ('Clockwork Orange', westerns, 'Trainspotting', Martin Scorsese, etc.). It is larger than life and demonstrates how the mythic archetypes shape the characters rather too small for the roles they want to adopt.
'16 Years of Alcohol' won Richard Jobson the award for Directorial Debut at the British Independent Film Awards. It has received glowing reviews from Time Out, The Guardian, and Sight and Sound. It has played at festivals the world over. Forget the dismal comments of those too cynical to enjoy real film-making. See this poetic triumph for yourself.
but give it time and it's real and its true,
its twisted and heartbreaking..
"Where is love when you need it the most?....
Where is love when the past begins to leak into your heart?....
Where is hope in a hopeless place?"
16 Years of Alcohol is one of the most depressing films I have seen; but it manages to remain interesting. The film is narrated by the main character; Frankie (Kevin McKidd), a guy in his late 20's who has been a violent person and alcoholic for 16 years. The film begins by showing the last parts of the film, and then delves in to the characters childhood. His father was a philanderer and alcoholic as well, something he found troubling and inexplicable as a child; he has grown up into a man with a hard shell around him, welcoming vices as a natural part of life (like his father). He won't let anyone in, and ends up fighting them if they try. He hold's resentment towards normalcy and balance, and does his damndest to upset it.
In with a group of three likewise violent friends, they roam the city streets of London looking for drinks and picking fights. The Clockwork Orange homage's are really the only true "entertaining" parts of the film, with the recreation of certain of Kubrick sets and similar situations from his film; even some of the costumes are subtle homage's. British Writer/Director Richard Jobson takes parts of A Clockwork Orange's framework, strips it of its avant-garde themes and stylizations, while maintaining certain character elements; he then transplants it to realistic modern day London, instead of the hyper-reality of Kubrick's vision.
Much like with Alex in Kubrick's film, Frankie is attempting to escape his past (in a very different way than Alex), and start fresh; unlike Alex's brutal procedure, Frankie, whom lives in the real world, attends Alcoholics Anonymous, finds a girlfriend who has also had a rough past, and tries to learn to see hope in a future that is not at the mercy of the past. That hope, as Frankie narrates, can be a tricky thing, a double edged knife; and even when you can forget the past, sometimes it doesn't forget you.
As interesting as the subject matter is in this film, the plot is barren of any happiness, and the characters can be extremely polarizing for a film trying to be realistic. And, Frankie himself isn't the most cinematic of characters. He doesn't speak much, and most of what we learn of him comes through his interior monologues. The narrative would be interesting, if it weren't for the fact that it is extremely repetitive and not as revealing as it should be. The film aptly tries to explain, yet it isn't really adding more meaning to the film, it's just adding words to it. It's the over explaining with no addition of meaningful content that add too, to the films derision and depressing feeling as well. It seems that the screenplay tries to fill these gaps in meaning with the monologues (it only 95 minutes long), but isn't entirely successful. If the film cut, say, 30-45 % of it's narration, the film would be much better.
The acting is pretty good, notably McKidd in the lead role, as a stony faced, impulsive, self-loathing/self-pitying Frankie. The two female leads, both girlfriends of Frankie, are well placed and thought up characters, and their presence, and differences as people, are markers for the changes that Frankie is going through. One of the women he dates before his attempts to change, and the other he meets before beginning to attend AA.
Overall this isn't a bad film, criticisms and all; in fact it's in a some ways its pretty good. I like how the film shows a man stuck in his own life make an attempt to change for the better, and not succeed with flying colours. I like that it gives "Alex DeLarge" a childhood, a formative reason for his adult behaviour. I like the homage's. I like the feelings of tension and uncertainty......I still like this film, flaws and all.
- Lou Reed.
Great to see Kevin McKidd morph from young teen to young adult so convincingly. He easily carries the film and proves he is a talent to watch.