[Screen It]


(1998) (Peter Mullan, Louise Goodall) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Heavy Minor Extreme Moderate Mild
Moderate None Moderate None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Moderate Heavy Moderate Moderate Heavy

Drama: A recovering alcoholic tries to make amends for past mistakes by helping another troubled man, but ends up risking his new relationship with the woman he loves.
Joe Kavanagh (PETER MULLAN) is a 37-year-old recovering alcoholic who's recently been trying to make good with his life after a wild and rocky start. With only his name, charm and good looks to go on, Joe coaches the local Scottish soccer team and has taken a protective interest in one of the young players, Liam (DAVID McKAY). A recovering junkie and dealer himself, Liam is trying to help his still addicted wife, Sabine (ANNE-MARIE KENNEDY), go straight so that they don't lose custody rights to their young son.

Things look up for Joe when he meets Sarah (LOUISE GOODALL), a pretty, middle-aged nurse who's arrived to check on Sabine. After some flirtation and a stint of hanging wallpaper with his buddy Shanks (GARY LEWIS) for her, Joe and Sarah soon become an item and both seem quite happy.

Liam's debt to the local drug lord, McGowan (DAVID HAYMAN), however, soon makes things sticky for Joe. Feeling that his escape and recovery from his wild past means that he should help others in similar situations, Joe tries to intervene, but finds himself tangled in a situation he wishes he could have avoided.

With his life suddenly much more complicated than he had planned, Joe tries to balance his commitment to his young friend with his love for Sarah, a relationship that's jeopardized by McGowan and his men.

It's not very likely.
For pervasive language and some violence, sexuality and drug use.
  • PETER MULLAN plays a recovering alcoholic whose involvement in trying to help his friend out of debt to a drug lord risks his relationship with the woman he loves. Along the way he cusses, smokes, gets drunk in one scene, evidently gets Sarah pregnant, and acts violently in several scenes (one in flashback).
  • LOUISE GOODALL plays a caring and devoted nurse who falls for Joe and ends up getting pregnant by him.
  • DAVID McKAY plays one of Joe's soccer players who's a recovering junkie and dealer and owes a great deal of money to a drug lord.
  • ANNE-MARIE KENNEDY plays his junkie wife.
  • DAVID HAYMAN plays the local drug lord who threatens violence against Liam if he doesn't pay off his debt.


    OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
    Although I've never been much of a fan of the use of subtitles in films -- as they needlessly divert one's attention from the majority of what's a visually delivered medium and could easily be replaced by dubbed dialogue -- I've always believed that pictures filled with near unintelligible accents could use them.

    As such, I'm pleased to report that "My Name is Joe" -- a film filled with Scottish accents that are so thick you'd think the dialogue was being spoken in another language far removed from English -- is accompanied by English subtitles. While that has no real impact on one's opinion of the film's artistic merits, at least it certainly makes it easier to understand what's being said.

    With that out of the way, the picture is definitely worth seeing -- if only for the incredibly strong performances -- but it clearly won't entertain or appease the average moviegoer. Despite a pleasant first half that has all of the trappings of a subdued, mature romantic comedy, the film bursts that bubble and becomes a bleak, depressing affair that defies the "escapist" qualities found in most Hollywood-based films.

    Up until that change, however, the picture offers some delightful moments, including a fun bowling montage of the two would-be lovers getting to know each other, as well as a humorous bit where Joe and his buddy -- who's never hung wallpaper before in his life -- give Sarah a bluffed, but professional sounding reason why they can't wallpaper her ceiling.

    Nonetheless, while this film is named for the opening statement most commonly identified with AA members addressing their meetings -- "Hello. My name is Joe, and I'm an alcoholic" -- it could easily evoke the following, more accurate message. "My name is Joe, I screwed up in the past, and that's going to haunt me forever no matter what my new intentions."

    Something of a morality play regarding the saying, "No good deed goes unpunished," the film is an interesting character study of a man who tries -- perhaps too hard and definitely to his detriment -- to right his previous wrongs. Although his intentions are good, it soon becomes obvious that they'll have inevitable, tragic consequences.

    Of course, to pull all of this off in a convincing, easy to watch and non-melodramatic manner, one needs good performances from a talented cast. Director Ken Loach ("Sarah's Song"), working from Paul Laverty's screenplay -- gets both, although I'd call Peter Mullan's take much better than merely good. Having played small parts in more well-known films such as "Braveheart" and "Trainspotting," he gives an Oscar-caliber performance of a down on his luck bloke who, despite his better efforts, is doomed for grief.

    Having already taken home the best actor award at last year's Cannes Film Festival, Mullan's performance is the type that should get him noticed fast and in a big way. In addition, it continually reminded me of the work of Paul Newman in his earlier days, with both actors capable of so much with just the look of their eyes or the use of their subtle mannerisms.

    Louise Goodall ("Sarah's Song") also delivers a great performance to counter Mullan's, and is completely believable -- and better yet, extremely comfortable and natural -- in her role. The chemistry between the two feels right and for most of the film neither shows their acting "seams."

    Unfortunately, the film concludes with somewhat of a contrived ending that feels out of step with the rest of what preceded it. Although it's logically and thematically connected, the events feel a bit too forced in a film where everything else comes across as naturally and seemingly unscripted. It's not a tragic flaw for the film, but the sudden jolt of realism throws the picture a bit off kilter.

    Even so, the performances alone are worth the price of admission, and if Mullan doesn't go on to bigger and more recognized parts in the near future, it will be a great shame. Moderately entertaining -- at least for the first half with other scattered bits here and there -- the film certainly won't appeal to mainstream audiences and will most likely result in a depressed mood for those who do see it. Nonetheless, one had to admire what Loach has delivered, and for that, we give "My Name is Joe" a 6.5 out of 10.

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated film. Profanity is extreme with at least 230 "f" words (spoken and subtitled in English for something of a double effect) and other words and phrases being uttered.

    The film partially concerns drug users and dealers, but there's only one scene showing someone actually shooting up. The main character smokes a great deal during the film and is a recovering alcoholic. As such, we see him drunk several times, including in a flashback scene where he beats a former girlfriend. Other violence includes a person being beaten, and a pub brawl where Joe hits several people -- and a car -- with a bat. A person also commits suicide and we see the body hanging out a window.

    Brief nudity (bare breasts) occurs in a scene between Joe and Sarah that leads to a suggested sexual encounter (not seen) and we later learn that she's pregnant from that or other encounters. A few other sexually related comments also occur.

    While it's highly unlikely that many kids will want to see this film, should they or you decide to, you may want to take a closer look at the listed content should you still be concerned with the film's appropriateness.

  • We learn that Joe is a recovering alcoholic (who's been sober for quite a while) and that he beat a former girlfriend while drunk (seen in a flashback).
  • Sarah has wine for her and Joe while they have pizza, but he tells her that he doesn't drink.
  • Some guys drink on the street.
  • Liam is a former drug user, and Sabine currently is one. As such, we see her shooting up what's presumably heroin into her leg (that shows other track marks and sores from other instances of shooting up).
  • Some of McGowan's guys drink beer in several scenes.
  • Upset that his life has unraveled, Joe drinks liquor again and has enough that he's later passed out drunk.
  • We see several sores on Sabine's leg from where she's been shooting up drugs.
  • Joe mentions stealing music cassettes years earlier that he then sold for money. He also takes a paid job from Sarah for hanging wallpaper (despite being on "welfare") and she then lies to the officials and says that she didn't pay him (she did).
  • In flashback, while drunk, and mad at a former girlfriend for laughing at him, Joe slams her head against a wall and punches and then repeatedly kicks her while she lies on the steps and screams.
  • Repeatedly asked by Sarah not to smoke in the clinic, Sabine refuses and then cops a bad attitude that eventually causes several people to forcibly remove her.
  • Obviously McGowan and his men have both for being criminals and drug dealers.
  • To help Liam out of his financial bind, Joe agrees to be McGowan's drug courier for two runs, and then lies to Sarah about that.
  • Joe's soccer players temporarily lock up some delivery guys and steal some soccer uniforms for themselves.
  • Sarah refuses Joe's gift of a ring, but we later learn that he bought it with drug-related money (that he earned as an extra for delivering drugs to get Liam off the hook).
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may also be tense or suspenseful to some viewers.
  • In flashback, while drunk, and mad at a former girlfriend for laughing at him, Joe slams her head against a wall and punches and then repeatedly kicks her while she lies on the steps and screams.
  • With McGowan's men approaching and Joe passed out drunk, Liam panics in Joe's apartment as the men get closer.
  • A man commits suicide by hanging himself and the sight of the body hanging out of a window (no blood or gore) may be unsettling to some viewers.
  • Baseball bat: Used by Joe to hit several of McGowan's men and then to smash that man's car windows.
  • While drunk and mad at everyone, Joe talks about getting a gun and shooting Liam (this never happens).
  • Phrases: "For f*ck's sake," "Sh*thole," "Bitch" (toward women), "Bastard," "Pissed" (drunk), "Woosies," "Balls" (testicles), "Scum," "Shut up," "Idiot," "Scumbag" and "Whore."
  • To jokingly "goose" his players, Joe acts like the police at their door, causing them to flee like rats.
  • To retaliate against a government worker who's taken pictures of him, Joe smears wallpaper paste (or paint) all over the man's car (and his face) before that man drives away.
  • Mad at McGowan, Joe takes a baseball bat and smashes the windows on the man's car (after hitting people with the bat).
  • A man commits suicide by hanging himself.
  • None.
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful music occurs toward the end of the movie.
  • None.
  • At least 230 "f" words, 10 "s" words, 1 use of "shag" (sexual), 9 slang terms for male genitals ("pr*ck"), 3 slang terms for female genitals ("c*nt"), 10 asses (spelled in the subtitles as "arse," 1 used with "hole"), 4 hells, 1 crap, and 19 uses of "Jesus," 5 uses each of "Jesus Christ" and "Christ," 3 uses of "Oh my God," 2 uses each of "My God" and "Swear to God" and 1 use each of "For Christ's sakes," "Oh God" and "Oh Jesus" as exclamations.
  • We see just the top part of Shank's bare butt as his pants ride down on him while he's hanging wallpaper.
  • We briefly see Joe and Sarah making out.
  • After Sarah tells a new mother to put chilled cabbage leaves inside her bra (for sore nipples), the woman says she should put one down her husband's crotch.
  • Liam finds condoms in Sabine's bag and accuses her of "shagging" someone other than him.
  • To get back the money owed to him, McGowan gives Liam several options, one of which includes Sabine working as a prostitute (this never happens).
  • Joe undoes Sarah's robe and we briefly see her bare breasts. She then undoes his shirt and while undoing his pants (which we don't see) he painfully reacts and mentions "instant circumcision." Then they kiss standing up while apparently nude (although we don't see anything beyond a head and shoulders shot of the two).
  • It's implied that they have sex then and/or at other times because Sarah later finds out that she's pregnant.
  • Joe smokes quite often during the film, while Sabine smokes a few times, Liam smokes once, and several team players, some people at an AA meeting, and other miscellaneous characters also smoke.
  • Sarah briefly mentions that her father died thirteen months ago and that her mother died when she was a teenager.
  • Liam and Sabine have a rocky relationship with both being former/present junkies and him worried that the officials will take away their baby because of Sabine's condition.
  • Whether or not Joe should have gotten himself involved in Liam's problems, and whether people who've done wrong in the past should feel compelled to right those wrongs by helping others.
  • Suicide (a character here commits that when faced with dire circumstances).
  • To retaliate against a government worker who's taken pictures of him, Joe smears wallpaper paste (or paint) all over the man's car (and his face) before that man drives away.
  • In flashback, while drunk, and mad at a former girlfriend for laughing at him, Joe slams her head against a wall and punches and then repeatedly kicks her while she lies on the steps and screams.
  • Some guys accost Liam and then repeatedly kick him while he lies on a soccer field.
  • Some people have to grab Sabine and forcibly remove her from a clinic when she makes a scene there.
  • Liam violently grabs Sabine and forcibly makes her look into the mirror to confront her drug problem.
  • To get back the money owed to him, McGowan gives Liam several options, one of which includes breaking his legs (this never happens).
  • Sarah pushes Joe backwards when mad at him.
  • Being escorted out of a pub by one of McGowan's men, Joe suddenly head-butts him and then smashes a mug over his head and then punches McGowan. Another man then approaches with a bat, but Joe gets it from him and hits several men with it. He then goes outside and smashes all of the windows in McGowan's car.
  • A man commits suicide by hanging himself.

  • Reviewed February 23, 1999 / Posted March 5, 1999

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [Halloween Kills] [Mass] [The Last Duel] [Needle in a Timestack] [No Time To Die] [Lamb]

    Privacy Statement and Terms of Use and Disclaimer
    By entering this site you acknowledge to having read and agreed to the above conditions.

    All Rights Reserved,
    ©1996-2021 Screen It, Inc.