2014. április 24., csütörtök

# 1996 # 1998

The Heroic Struggle of Average People

My name is Joe (1998) is one of the early films of Ken Loach which concerns with Scottish issues. Its genre is obviously romance. The story is about an unemployed and former alcoholic man, Joe (Peter Mullan) who gets to know the local community health worker, Sarah (Louise Goodall). As they are getting closer to each other, we start to learn more and more about their relationship and discover its depth. On the other hand, the genre of this movie can be drama as well. Besides Peter and Sarah’s storyline, there is another one in parallel theirs: Liam (David McKay) who plays in Joe’s football team and Sabine (Anne-Marie Kennedy) who is one of the patients of Sarah. The couple is struggling with serious financial problems and the only escape seems to be drug trade for them. However, they have become the victim of the main drug dealer, thus Liam is tend to ask Joe to help them. Joe cannot refuse Liam but Sarah is dead against this idea.

As we can conclude that from the plot, Loach’s film deals with mainly social issues in city of Glasgow. In other words, heroic struggles of average people. These serious problems are represented by the characters. 

The movie beings with a scene of meeting of an AA group (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous) where the main character, Joe is introduced. The typical expectation would be that the man’s problem is told here; on the contrary, Joe only tells about his alcoholism later, when Sarah visits his own house for the first time. His experiences with alcohol stand for its psychedelic effect and further side effects such as aggressive behaviour. Nevertheless, as the present time of the story represents it, Joe was able to recognize his problem and went further: join an AA group – this is a good example for the heroic struggle of average people. 

Another social issue, poverty is demonstrated by Joe, Liam and Sabine as well. Despite the fact that Joe beat alcoholism, he is unemployed and only part-time jobs are available to him (e.g. painting Sarah’s flat). Liam and Sabine have to cope with the same situation, additionally; they ought to care about their child, Scott. In contrast with Joe, neither Liam nor Sabine is capable to solve their problems; thus they turn to the “easier” way, drugs – here another issue is emerged, drug consumption and its other causation, for example drug trade, as it appears later in the storyline. 

These problems are structured by intelligent director techniques. One of them is the narrative style. As the previous example of Joe’s AA group scene represents it, Loach does not use clear chronological narration. My name is Joe’s beginning is rather in the style of in medias res because the viewers do not get immediately the explicit information about the main characters or the plot. Loch introduces every detail step by step; we get the whole picture of the situation only at the last part, and the same structure is applied in the case of characters. As Joe and Sarah get to know each other by meetings so we, the viewers get more detailed description about their characters. 

In another film of Ken Loach, Carla’s song (1996), the director uses almost exactly the same techniques. A bus driver, George (Robert Carlyle) and Carla (Oyanka Cabezas), a foreign girl meet in Glasgow by chance. Carla seems to have great injuries in her heart, which are not discovered before George. He wants to help the girl, thus he makes Carla travel home, Nicaragua that she could face her past.

The beginning of both films is similar: the main characters meet by chance, they start meeting and grow to love each other. During this act, they learn more and more about each other’s character and past. In order to represent this method, both My name is Joe and Carla’s song uses flashbacks as a narrative technique but in different way. In the main film of the essay, both Joe and Sarah see more and more shades of each other as the time is passing. The same is true in case of Carla’s song, with the exception of that we only know Carla, George’s life stays in background. Some scenes, for example when he gives his Glasgow t-shirt to a Nicaraguan man, represents his character (i.e. charitable), but other details of his life are not known. 

This dissimilarity causes another one between the two works. According to movie database (e.g. IMDB or Port), Carla’s song is regarded as a romantic drama, but after watching it, the romance part seems to be less highlighted than the drama part. Discovering Carla’s past, the actual political problem of Nicaragua gets the focus, not the completion of the couple’s love. Furthermore, with the integration of Nicaragua part into the plot, the director turns from Scottish issues and pays great attention to the civil war and its consequences at average people’s level. 

However, Loach chose problems of another country; he copes with the same contemporary problems of citizens as in My name is Joe: poverty, how to learn accept the unacceptable or how to handle the feeling of the willingness of escapism. As in the other movie, these serious struggles inside us have different effects on people and everybody tries to solve them in different ways. Someone will continue fighting because he or she is able to understand and accept the past or the current situation, as Joe and Carla do, or choose escape since he or she does not feel strong enough to solve the given problem such as Liam or George. 

The two main actor of My name is Joe, Peter Mullan and Louise Goodall appear in another Scottish films. For example, Louise appears in Carla’s song as Maureen, George’s girlfriend. Unfortunately, here her role is not as emphatic as in My name is Joe. There are only two scenes where Goddall is present: when she has a date with George and in the other scene they break. By these events Maureen’s character remains undiscovered as Goddall’s talent in acting. Besides this film, she does not many chances to act.

The actors of My name is Joe, Peter Mullan and Louise Goodall seem to be able to suit the challenges of Loach’s directions. Mullan as Joe can show many dimensions of an unemployment man in his late thirties. His style is a bit rough (e.g. car scene) but he does not lack kindness (e.g. he manages to save Liam’s family without expecting any compensation). Through Mullan’s acting the viewers can understand Sarah’s feeling toward him, because they grow to love Joe, too. In 1998 the juries of Cannes Film Festival might have had the similar opinion: Peter Mullan won in the category of best actor.

His partner, Louise Goodall also makes her character likeable and natural, she seems intelligent and helpful. Nevertheless, the social differences between her and Joe are emphasized by her acting. For example her speech style (i.e. less harsh accent) and her calmer behaviour are good techniques to achieve it. 

Peter Mullan, despite Goodall, has had more chance in the world of movies. For instance, he has an interesting role in David McKenzie’s film, Young Adam (2003). In the story, there is a great conflict between Joe (Ewan McGregor) and Les (Peter Mullan) because Joe has love affair with Les’s wife, Ella. However, the conflict stays unresolved since here, Mullan in Les’s role not as the strong man who can fight against his faith. Lastly, he thinks fighting pointless, thus he leaves Joe, the generation to take everything. 

In conclusion, Ken Loach’s films, at first sight, seem to adapt different themes from each other, but after taking a closer look, it can be concluded that only the approach is what differs. His two films which were examined represent the statement. On the other hand, it is not true for the actors. Both Peter Mullan and Louise Goodall can play in total different roles and situations.

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