Jobson's film is a strange mishmash of grit and goo. It features the visual style of A Clockwork Orange, but hero Frankie Mac's (Kevin McKidd) tortured insights into the lowdown blue meanies sound like something scribbled into an übersensitive 15-year-old's diary.
Some of that sentiment might have been excusable if screeched at full volume and backed by some serious drum beats. But Frankie's internal thoughts, offered in voice-over narration, sink the film like a bag of drowned kittens.
In flashback, Frankie muses on the frustrated romantic within ("Inside of all of us is something beautiful. Something that wants to say hello to the world.") and identifies the root of his problem - his dad's adultery. In Jobson's transparent cause-and-effect exposition, Frankie is soon bowing his sullen kiddie head into every glass in sight, setting up both the single explanatory event for his lifelong unhappiness and the addiction that addresses it.
All grown up, Frankie is the skinhead ringleader of a band of punks whose sadness has transformed into hatred. Though they are meant to be some of the most stylish and arresting scenes in the film, the dramatically lit dispatches from a thug's life are strangely devoid of energy and suffer from a similar form of melodramatic overkill that plagues Jobson's flowery writing. How a film so centered on disillusioned youth with a great soundtrack and directed by a genuine Scottish punk turned out so square is one of the film's biggest mysteries.
16 Years of Alcohol struggles mightily - often with some real flair and a compelling performance by McKidd - to show what it is to be young, angry and isolated in gritty working-class Edinburgh. But Jobson dares us with his desultory exposition and the tortured poetry of Frankie's thoughts, to appreciate his eternal malaise as something beyond art house fussiness.
Opens Fri., April 22, at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.
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