My Name Is Joe (Ken Loach, 1998)
[originally posted 17Jan2000]
I expected this to be good. I was still surprised by how good it was. However, it’s bleak, bleak, bleak. It’s a black comedy in the same vein Delicatessen is a black comedy– you’ll laugh, but don’t rent this on the same day you buy a new package of razor blades.
Plot: Joe (Session 9‘s Peter Mullan) is unemployed and attempting to stay sober after years of, well, not doing so. Things seem to be taking a turn for the better when he starts up a romantic relationship with Sarah (Aberdeen‘s Louise Goodall), but the call of the bottle is always just behind him, and it’s made worse both by Sarah’s career (she’s a nurse) and her idealism (she has a thing for helping the downtrodden, which means “associating with addicts a lot”, and hey, why is she in this relationship in the first place, right?). Not that their surroundings aren’t the kind of thing that drives a person to the bottle anyway; the film’s setting is the slums of Glasgow, where there are a thousand Joes behind the windows in every city block, just waiting for that one small thing that’s going to set them off…
The acting is some of the best deadpan I’ve seen in years, and it works– the parallel between Sabine (One Life Stand‘s Anne-Marie Kennedy), the junkie, and life in a dead Scottish town is a little too in-the-face at times, but it’s still handled with sharp-tongued wit throughout. The camerawork is somewhat uninspiring, but we should be used to that in things coming out of the British Isles these days. Besides, it doesn’t have to be good. The characters carry this one. But prepare to be depressed, and you’ll want to keep away from sharp objects during the last ten minutes. ****
Trailer for a recent DVD release.