Set in the Scottish port town of Greenock, this film concerns the travails of restless 15-year-old Liam (Compston), who's beaten and driven away from home by his drug-pushing stepfather, Stan (McCormack). With his mother Jean (Coulter) incarcerated for a crime Stan committed, Liam turns to his older sister Chantelle (Fulton) for support. But Liam courts trouble himself when he hatches a dangerous plan with best friend Pinball (Ruane).
British director Loach is a master at evoking the hardship of poverty in working-class England, and this hard-hitting drama about a Scottish teen's coming of age is no exception. Loach has an impeccable eye for talented nonactors, too, and Greenock native Compston fits the bill perfectly, portraying a witty and resourceful young drug-runner-in-the-making with convincing confidence. Ruane, as his gawky sidekick, is equally wonderful. Bleakly realistic, yet peppered with humor and a splash of hope, "Sweet Sixteen" is a sympathetic portrait of troubled adolescence.