My Name Is Joe


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Peter Mullan in My Name Is Joe
"It's not so much kitchen sink, as tenement trauma."

Joe is so representative of a Glaswegian type - passionate, working-class, sentimental, outspoken - that it takes an actor of Peter Mullan's quality to tear him loose from stereotype. The story is no smaller than life itself, if you're living on your own, 37-years-old, unemployed, a recovering alcoholic and active manager of the worst weekend footy team in the West of Scotland.

Ken Loach has been here (Riff-Raff, Raining Stones, Ladybird, Ladybird) and knows exactly what to do. It's not so much kitchen sink, as tenement trauma. Joe's love affair with Sarah (Louise Goodall), a health visitor, contains every tentative and vulnerable moment of a burgeoning relationship, beautifully observed by writer, Paul Laverty, a lawyer whose first script was the memorable Carla's Song.

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At the start, it's a talkie, with character cameos and funny incidents, not exactly Sleepless In Seattle, but a positive response to the challenge of two people coming together in auspicious circumstances, carrying their baggage from past experiences, shy, nervous and forever hopeful. Unlike a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan coupling, the language can be rough and the water's decidedly choppy.

Later, things change and the subplot, concerning Liam (David McKay), one of Joe's footballers, and his junkie wife (powerful performance from non-professional Annemarie Kennedy), threatens to rupture the romantic naturalism of Joe and Sarah's life together, because Joe cannot walk by on the other side.

He faces up to the drug dealers, who are threatening Liam's life, and reluctantly agrees to do a couple of jobs for them to pay off the boy's debt. Sarah, who comes from a more conventional, middle-class background, is appalled. As Joe says, "Some of us don't have a choice."

Ultimately, this is what Loach and Laverty are concerned about. Seattle can stay awake all night, mooning and swooning, for all they care. Life on the dole in Glasgow's toughest neighborhood has nowhere to hide. Choices are like sweeties. You can nick 'em from the corner shop, if you're fast enough, but don't expect to be offered any. Joe feels he has no option but to help Liam, even if it puts him in danger. And it does.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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My Name Is Joe packshot
A man struggles to do the right thing after years on the bottle.
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Director: Ken Loach

Writer: Paul Laverty

Starring: Peter Mullan, Louise Goodall, David McKay, Anne-Marie Kennedy, David Hayman, Gary Lewis, Lorraine McIntosh, Scott Hannah, David Peacock, Gordon McMurray, James McHendry

Year: 1998

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France, Germany, Italy , Spain, UK

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