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My Name Is Joe (1998)

His name is Joe, and hes an alcoholic

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 105 minutes

UK Certificate: 12


“My Name Is Joe” certainly has plenty of admirers, but I'm guessing the Glasgow Tourist Board isn't one of them. Their catchphrase is, after all, “Glasgow's Smiles Better” – but you'd be hard pushed to find many smiles in here. Then again, it IS a Ken Loach film – which basically means disappointment for anyone expecting a tale about pink fluffy elephants who spend their days picking flowers and hugging. Nobody does gritty realism like Loach.

The working class sort-of-hero depicted in this one is reformed alcoholic Joe (Peter Mullan), a ned-with-a-heart who coaches a local pub football team full of cheeky Weegie scamps. Joe's life finally seems to be heading along the right lines when he falls for nicey-nicey social worker Sarah (Louise Goodall). Unfortunately, it's not long before the bubble bursts. One of his players, Liam (David McKay), gets mixed up with the local stereotypical hardman gangster (David Hayman) and it looks like there's going to be knee-cappings all round. That is unless Joe can find a solution – which, it has to be said, never looks anything other than extremely unlikely.

Loach delves deep into a squalid world of drug addiction, prostitution, giro-cashing and, perhaps most disturbingly of all, some incredibly bad football-playing. The romance that develops between Joe and Sarah is entirely believable, and Loach throws in just enough occasional humour to stop you from throwing yourself through a nearby window and subsequently missing the predictably bleak climax.

This film needed subtitles in most parts of the world and, unless you speak fluent Glaswegian (i.e. you say “by the way” a lot), you won't find that at all surprising. This is hard-going stuff, but undeniably contains some fantastic acting, most notably from Mullan (who picked up Best Actor at Cannes for his troubles). Others among the ensemble are Gary Lewis (best known as Billy Elliot's dad), “Rushmore” delinquent Stephen McCole and, best of all as far as I'm concerned, Deacon Blue songstress Lorraine McIntosh.

It's Got: One of the most unconvincing heists in film history, involving a minibus, beer bellies and some boxes of Brazilian football strips.

It Needs: To ditch the "Childrens Film Foundation"-style music.

DVD Extras A couple of trailers and some interviews. DVD Extras Rating: 2/10


Poignant, gritty and realistic, but also extremely tough on the eye.