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IN SHORT: A well acted but incomplete story
Cranky thought he had seen just about everything amazing and unbelievable in the last four years of confinement in the dark, but he found another one. My Name Is Joe, a British movie whose characters speak with such thick Scottish accents that the entire film is subtitled . . . in English! In black and white on this page it sounds ludicrous but in "reality" it is absolutely necessary. Cranky needed about forty five minutes before his ears locked on to the proper words.
Set somewhere near Glasgow Scotland, we're introduced to a tightly knit group of friends, all of whom are barely getting by and most of whom have some kind of problem with drugs or alcohol or sex. Joe Kavanagh (Peter Mullan), ten months on the wagon, is on the dole (meaning he gets welfare), driving a bus for the Holsland community center chauffeuring and coaching the football (ie. soccer) team. He's single. He likes it that way because the last time he had a relationship he was drinking and it brought out the worst in him when the affair hit the rocks. Better to avoid temptation of any kind and remain locked into a dead end life on the dole.
Sarah (Louise Goodall) is a health counselor in the community health center, teaching teens about birth control, teaching new families how to take care of their babies, helping dopeheads get clean. She's got her own house but her life is devoted to her work. Spending all your time with people who can barely scratch by, whether they're broke or addicted or pregnant or any combination thereof does not exactly cast a fine light on traditional couplehood.
Liam (David McKay), once upon a time, was on the needle, but a stint in jail got him clean. Incentive to stay that way comes in the form of his 3 year old son Scott by way of wife Sabine(Anne-Marie Kennedy), also off the needle and an ex-streetwalker to boot. Joe is Liam's coach. Sarah provides the educational and medical support which the family needs, and it is through this happy loving couple that our singlefolk meet up My Name Is Joe, which I can now categorize as a well acted slice of life drama with tragic overtones well suited for the arthouse circuit.
Neither Joe nor Sarah are looking for a permanent lockdown, but friendship is better than being alone, and taking care of friends beats the tar out of burying yourself in a bottle. Joe and Sarah's "relationship" begins casually. He offers to hang wallpaper in her house for some under the table cash. When caught in the act by a government stooge whose job it is to ferret out welfare recipients working on the side, Sarah jumps to Joe's defense and lies to the welfare council in a letter saying she didn't pay Joe for his help. Urged on by his friends, Joe asks Sarah out. She says no but, urged on by her friends, gives it a run. Slowly, a relationship develops until "real life" intrudes on the fantasy tale.
Liam stays clean, but Sabine doesn't. She's run up a tab of over 1500 Pound Sterling to McGowan (David Hayman), the thug that runs the drug and sex operations in the area. Add another 500 quid that Liam owed from before his jail time and the couple are facing serious physical damage, unless Sabine works the streets. Not only is this a sure fire flush down the dumper of life for the pair, it is also the quickest route back to dependence on the needle. Liam knows he's weak and Sabine is so far down that road she would never make it back. To save his friend, Joe offers to do a favor or two for McGowan, driving cars down from the North Country (guess what's hidden in the cars...) and he lies to Sarah about it.
You don't have to imagine how angry Sarah gets when she stumbles on to this deal. From this point on, My Name Is Joe shifts more to Liam and Sabine's story and it's detrimental effect on Sarah and Joe. Once that supporting bit takes over, you're left with an unsatisfying ending to the movie, unless you're the kind that likes open questions left unsolved so you can discuss what could have happened after the credits rolled.
It's a time honored dramatic device, and one which Cranky has never liked. Didn't like trying to figure out if Eliza and the Doctor made it in My Fair Lady. Don't like guessing on whether or not Joe and Sarah can save the relationship that they didn't want in the first place in My Name Is Joe. But that's just me. The performances are fine and the script includes enough bits to make everything feel "real". It isn't enough to make you walk out of the theater raving to your friends that they must see it, but it's good enough that I have no qualms about recommending it, if you're into the "small" movies.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to My Name Is Joe, he would have paid...
Pay Per View level, 'cuz My Name Is Joe would work just as well on your home screen, and you'd have enough cash left over to pop the beer that Joe can't drink.
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