124 minutes| U.K.-France-Italy| 2010| Colour| D-Cinema

Following the focused, harrowing The Magdalene Sisters was never going to be easy, but when Peter Mullan gets behind the camera he means business, and this ’70s Glasgow coming-of-age-story proves his strongest offering yet as writer-director. Yes, there’s Sweet and T-Rex on the soundtrack and clips from children’s TV favourites (Hector’s House, anyone?), but look elsewhere for rosy-tinted nostalgia. Instead, Mullan provides an unflinching look at how the gang culture of the backstreets provides a dangerous allure for a bright young lad mired in a school system focused more on discipline than academic encouragement. As newcomer Conor McCarron’s protagonist strays from top marks in Latin to blade-wielding psychosis, Mullan refuses easy optimism, instead providing a forensic analysis of a culture repeatedly sending out the message that violence is power. This being Glasgow, there’s hilarious banter every step of the way, but Mullan’s film is a chastening reminder that failing our young people leaves everyone with scars that won’t heal. (Notes by Trevor Johnston).

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