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Richard Jobson first stepped into the spotlight at the tender age of sixteen. Following relative success with punk band The Skids, Jobson moved into broadcasting by presenting entertainment shows for Sky television throughout the 1990s. In 2003, he unveiled his directorial debut; 16 Years of Alcohol. Despite a muted public response, the film was nominated for two BAFTA Scotland awards and won Best Supporting Actor for Susan Lynch and the Douglas Hickox Award for Best Directorial Debut at the British Independent Film Awards. Tartan Video has seen fit to release the feature on DVD.  

16 Years of Alcohol
Film
As Frankie Mac (Kevin McKidd) is beaten to death in a darkened alley, he reflects on the events of his life that have led him to this moment. Flashing-back to his youth, we witness a young boy who develops a taste for alcohol as his family-life disintegrates. Years later, we catch up with Frankie again; this time to see him as a member of a small gang fixated on violence and crime. Eager to change for the love of a woman, Frankie decides he must turn his back on his life, his friends and, perhaps hardest of all, alcohol.

In a market drenched with gritty dramas, 16 Years of Alcohol does not sparkle with originality. Richard Jobson's tale of a man who is eager to change his ways echoes such fare as Trainspotting with the lure of drink substituting drugs. Fortunately, the film goes through the motions in a truly entertaining fashion. The central character of Frankie is enough to sustain our interest for the slender running time. While not a lovable protagonist, Kevin McKidd evokes sympathy by portraying him as the victim of his devices. McKidd is assisted by a solid supporting cast, although fans of Ewan Bremner should not be too excited by the marketing that lists him in a prominent role; his part consists of little more than a two minute cameo.

Richard Jobson's direction is lively enough, although the film is possibly 'over-directed'; relying on a constant soundtrack, narration and theatrical-style blocking to accentuate the tone of the piece. As a result, 16 Years threatens to dissolve into melodrama. While it never quite makes this step, it often feels as if the themes of the film are being hammered home a little too forcefully.

16 Years of Alcohol
The story also has its fair share of problems as, since it is presented in flashback, we know the ending before we even get there. While telling stories from the angle is often extremely effective (Reservoir Dogs, take a bow), when we learn of the protagonist's self-destructive qualities within the first ten minutes, the ensuing eighty are almost redundant. The back-story is also a little sketchy; jumping from a youngster's first drink to a teenager's frequent bouts of violence. It seems a little heavy-handed to blindly link the two events together without the presence of adjoining scenes that document the downward spiral.

16 Years of Alcohol manages to rise above these minor quibbles and leaves a lasting impression. While Jobson's debut will not set the world alight, it leaves good anticipation of his future films. This is solid, if unspectacular, fare that is worthy of a casual glance.

Video
There's a distinct lack of definition in the picture for the film, presented in 235:1 anamorphic. Although this is less noticeable in the scenes set indoors, the location filming does tend to suffer from a lack of sharpness. Aside from this one problem, this is a pretty solid picture with a minimal amount of grain and pixilation.

16 Years of Alcohol
Audio
Tartan Video often pay a good amount of attention to the audio aspects of their discs and that's certainly the case here with a DTS 5.1 track as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. It's unfortunate that the film has few chances to put the set-up under real scrutiny, with a lack of action and directional effects. The soundtrack, which spans a good portion of the film's runtime, is presented in pleasing fashion, together with clear dialogue.

Extras
Richard Jobson offers a candid audio commentary in which he gives his thoughts on both the writing and direction of the film. Pauses are few and far between and Jobson is an eloquent commentator.

Behind the Scenes is a twenty-five minute featurette incorporating cast and crew interviews and footage from the shoot. Far more insightful than the usual Hollywood equivalents, it's an interesting look at the making of the movie.

How It Began presents the audio track with the original storyboards for the feature. It would require a lot of perseverance for the average viewer to sit through the entirety, but it's certainly worth a look; if only to skip to the more visually arresting sequences.

The trailer for 16 Years of Alcohol is noticeable by its absence, but included on the DVD are peeks at 2046, My Architect, Super Size Me, One For the Road and Coffee and Cigarettes.

16 Years of Alcohol
Overall
If gritty character studies are your bag, then you could do a lot worse than seek a copy of 16 Years of Alcohol. To further sway you is a decent transfer and some genuinely interesting extras. While the lack of hype surrounding this modest picture will dissuade anyone from giving this a blind purchase, a rent should certainly be the order of the day for those interested in the subject matter.


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