Sweet Sixteen


Universal acclaim - based on 25 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 25
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 25
  3. Negative: 0 out of 25

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Critic Reviews

  1. Loach is a super-realist, and Sweet Sixteen has the disarming feel of a documentary. It's a film that miraculously catches life on the fly, without apparent embellishment, cliche or melodrama.
  2. With unsurprising irony, the "Sixteen" of the title foreshadows Liam's birthday and even worse calamity, which makes a grim and gripping story all the more heartbreaking.
  3. 90
    Sweet Sixteen shows that he's (Loach) as capable of anger as his protagonist and just as eager to draw attention to an unchanging problem: the blight of generational poverty.
  4. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    The explosively combative young hero, Liam (a brilliant performance by Martin Compston), has only the illusion of a fighting chance. Yet Sweet Sixteen is powerful because of the searing honesty with which it strips Liam of his illusions.
  5. 90
    With startling clarity and dreadful logic, Loach and Laverty make sense of every bad choice Compston makes until he runs out of options, locked into a destiny that he can't escape, mainly because his good intentions are clouded by tragic naivete.
  6. It's a classic story in form, and in this country it used to star Jimmy Cagney.
  7. It's one of the most emotional and compelling the filmmaker has ever made. Confident, uncompromising and blisteringly realistic, Sweet Sixteen is a gritty and immediate film yet it goes right to the emotions.
  8. 90
    In a remarkably subtle, assured debut performance, Compston evokes Billy in Loach's "Kes" and, in the heartbreaking final seaside shot, Antoine in Truffaut's "400 Blows."
  9. I'm not prone to like socially deterministic films of this kind, yet Loach is so masterful at squeezing nuance and truth out of the form that I was completely won over.
  10. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Rendered deeply moving by the director's peerless capacity to combine humor and compassion with honesty and despair.
  11. 88
    The movie's performances have a simplicity and accuracy that is always convincing. Compston, who plays Liam, is a local 17-year-old discovered in auditions at his school. He has never acted before, but is effortlessly natural.
  12. It's a beautiful, grim tale.
  13. 88
    It's an uncompromising movie that illustrates one of the most convincing personality transformations that I have seen in a recent motion picture.
  14. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Compston's performance and the downer milieu, presented with appropriate paint-peeling profanity, are more than enough to keep an audience riveted and ultimately moved close to tears.
  15. 88
    In its peak moments, the movie delivers, all at once, genuine street wisdom and psychology and wrenching expressions of family and friendship.
  16. A hard film to shake and makes us think and think again.
  17. In the grim and empathetic lost-youth drama Sweet Sixteen, the director focuses on a few failed souls -- rather than excoriate the system that failed them -- to produce a story of particularly streamlined, eloquent despair.
  18. 80
    There are no hearts and flowers in Loach's hard-edged world, no kindly interventions, no signs from heaven. Instead, he gives us the unvarnished facts about working-class exploitation and the failure of ambition in low places.
  19. 80
    It's not a happy film, but there's much incidental, quotidian happiness in it. Like Lynne Ramsay's lovely "Ratcatcher," the movie is far from sentimental about children.
  20. 75
    Watching this essentially good but misguided kid slide into a hopeless future is both transfixing and heartbreaking.
  21. Loach has made more memorable films, such as "Raining Stones" and "Ladybird Ladybird," but his dramatic sense remains strong and his social conscience is absolutely unstoppable.
  22. Compston, with Loach's uncanny guidance, gives a performance of such natural power you'd think you were watching a drama-class prodigy like James Dean rather than a moonlighting high-schooler.
  23. 75
    Not for all tastes, but it demonstrates Loach's skill as a poet of gritty semi-documentary filmmaking.
  24. Martin Compston, the young man-child of Sweet Sixteen, had never acted before, but his combination of sweetness and rage -- part puppy, part pit bull -- gives Sweet Sixteen a shot of reality and a big, aching heart.
  25. 70
    Dabbed with sentimental touches, the film nevertheless avoids facile victim psychologizing and pulls no punches.

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