My Name Is Joe

This 1998 feature is one of Ken Loach’s most powerful films, even if it takes a wrong turna lamentable failure of imagination in Paul Laverty’s script that foreshortens the leading female character about three quarters of the way through to accommodate the deterministic plot machinery. A reformed alcoholic and volunteer soccer coach (played with charisma and nobility by Peter Mullan) doing odd jobs in a Glasgow slum meets and falls in love with a sensitive health worker (Louise Goodall) and gets a new lease on life. But the crippling deprivation and desperation of the world he inhabits begin to close in on him, and he finds his life spinning out of control. Loach’s grasp of the infernal choices faced by the poor is so acute and precise that it prompts both recognition and rage, and the processes by which souls are found and lost are delineated with a passion that recalls Nicholas Ray. Despite the aforementioned script problem, which even an actress as fine as Goodall can’t circumvent, this is a scorching look at how the contemporary world operates. (JR)

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