As a kid in Edinburgh, Frankie (McKidd) is disappointed with his dad when the old boy is caught having an affair. By the time he's a teenager, Frankie has become an alcoholic and vicious gang leader. But the discovery of love offers him a chance to clean up and get his life back on track.
Poacher turns gamekeeper here as former film critic Richard Jobson makes his directorial debut. But Jobson is no ordinary hack: at various times he's been singer with punk band The Skids, a published poet and novelist, and a movie producer.
Jobson's first film as writer-director not only fuses his own talents, but also the best of Scottish cinema's recent output. It has Trainspotting's sharp ear for music and energetic eye for youthful excess, Small Faces' spot-on recreation of the recent past, and Ratcatcher's poetic sense of childhood pain remembered from afar.
Ultimately, however, it emerges in its own right as a personalised elegy about family, homeland and the strength required to turn around a wasted life. Even in its most violent moments, 16 Years Of Alcohol is suffused with visual poetry. 'Gritty' is not a word that applies here.
The film's trenchant insight into a culture that venerates the garrulous drunk goes hand in hand with a closer study of the complex individual character of Frankie. McKidd is simply awesome in his portrayal of a young man turning to booze, drugs or muggings in order to put some feeling into his desensitised life. He grasps the literary quality of Jobson's material and turns in a powerfully affecting performance.
Occasionally Jobson makes the predictable first-timer's mistakes (a tendency to over-egg the stylistic and pretention puddings, to name but two), but it's clear that here is a striking nascent talent. Scottish cinema has found another compelling voice.
Reviewed by Alan Morrison