Directed by Richard Jobson, starring Kevin McKidd, Laura Fraser, Susan Lynch, Stuart Sinclair Blyth, Lewis Macleod and Ewen Bremner.
'Trainspotting' launched the careers of a crop of young actors, some of whom went on to bigger and better gigs than others. Of them all, Kevin McKidd, who played the film's only genuinely decent character Tommy, still has the smallest profile but he's done consistently fine work in films like 'Bedroom and Hallways', 'The Acid House' and 'Hideous Kinky'. Now with '16 Years of Alcohol' McKidd should see his stock rise to the level he's richly deserved for so long.
Based on renaissance man (music, modelling, media, he's crammed it all in to his 43 years) director Richard Jobson's book, it follows Frankie Mac (McKidd) from childhood to adulthood and all the baggage he's carried with him along the way. As a boy, the hero-worshipping of his charmer father (Macleod) is wiped out when he finds him cheating on his mother, an ugly truth that leads to experiments with drink and a hunger for violence. Later, as the leader of a gang in his teens and early twenties, Frankie is offered hope in the form of an art student (Fraser) but he can't let go of the past. Then some years pass and another woman offers redemption (Lynch), but this time the past won't let go of him.
With a moving voiceover by McKidd, '16 Years of Alcohol' is tender and horrifying in its depiction of male rage and insecurity. It never says that Frankie is an alcoholic, instead it's better to see drink as the fuel that kickstarts the trauma he inflicts on others and himself. Amid the violence and self-hatred however, there is hope and you find yourself disgusted by Frankie's actions but in no doubt that there is a better person trying to get out. It's a fantastic performance from McKidd that powers the film through some weak scenes in the final third and leaves you replaying key moments and lines in your head.
Jobson's various careers have served him well in his directorial debut. Made for just £400,000, '16 Years of Alcohol' gives plenty of nods to other directors but retains its own visual grace and has a soundtrack (Roxy Music, Lou Reed, The Blue Nile) that perfectly captures Frankie's good times and bad. And, unlike so many other films, there's plenty of substance behind the style.
"Sometimes," Frankie muses at one point, "if you try, things can take a different turn. If your heart beats in the right way, at least you've a chance." You'll hear yours beating all the louder after watching this.