Like those of his compatriot Mike Leigh, Loach's films (Ladybird, Ladybird, Carla's Song) sometimes give the impression that everyone in the UK is a troubled, ex-drug addict living on the dole and in desperate need of dental care. This latest Scotland-set kitchen-sink love story is no exception (the brogues are so authentic, in fact, that the film is subtitled).
The characters wrestle hopelessly against small-time hoods, soul-sucking psychological deprivation and relentless, unsolvable money problems. Even the grainy cinematography seems to linger on the gray in the constantly overcast sky. Is there an upside to all this depression? That would be Mullan, who gives a stirring performance as the struggling ex-alcoholic title character.