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Rating 8

My Name is Joe

April 22, 1999
by Dan Lybarger
Originally appeared in Pitch Weekly. ........................................................................................................

Veteran British director Ken Loach (Ladybird Ladybird) tells familiar working class stories, but his ability to draw unaffected performances from his cast makes his movies compelling. My Name is Joe follows the difficulties of Joe Kavanagh (Peter Mullan, who took an acting prize at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival), a Scotsman who is also a stubborn recovering alcoholic.

Peter Mullen
Peter Mullan in My Name is Joe.
1999 Artisan Entertainment, used by permission.


While Joe has been able to shake the bottle, he hasn't been able to shake the poverty or the desperation that drove him to drink. When a friend (David McKay) winds up in debt to a local crime boss (David Hayman), Joe foolishly takes on his friend's burden. The story is expectedly downbeat, but Loach leavens the film with delightfully offhanded humor. Mullan is remarkably likable and makes Joe empathetic even when his pride begins to cripple him. For those who found the regional accents in Trainspotting and The Full Monty baffling, My Name is Joe comes with some helpful subtitles. Nonetheless, the plight of Loach's characters knows no language barrier.

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