With most of the planet going crazy over everything football-related last summer, any film boasting the beautiful game was bound to receive attention. So when news of a rather good British movie featuring the national sport leaked out from Cannes, My Name Is Joe became the festival's hot ticket. And while its tough-talking Glaswegian star, Peter Mullan, walked away with a Palme d'Or for best actor, acclaimed director Ken Loach deserved equal honours for this gritty, honest and compelling drama.
Loach serves up a story that sucks you in with its humour before horrifying you with an altogether darker tone. Mullan is extremely likable, be he cautiously wooing the sceptical Sarah or berating his no-hope team, with the football squad scenes as funny as anything from The Full Monty.
What the players lack in skill, they more than make up for with joie de vivre, and Joe's pet pupil Liam is the worst of the lot. He's like an enthusiastic puppy, always ready to believe the best of everyone no matter how many times he's knocked back.
And knocked back he is. Many times. Particularly by his girlfriend Sabine, who drags the two into debt with her heroin habit. When it becomes clear that the neighbour-hood drugs gang will only accept Liam's broken legs as payment, Joe steps in to help. The consequences of his actions make for some of the most heart-breaking and frighteningly real scenes in modern cinema.
Once again, Loach proves why so many actors clamour to work with him. Drawing truthful, powerful performances from an excellent cast, My Name Is Joe is a highly watchable drama which builds to a devastating conclusion.