Discussion Questions for Sweet Sixteen (Ken Loach, 2002)
- As far as monetary values are concerned, what message(s) could be conveyed in the opening moments of the film where the children pay Liam and Pinball to see the stars?
- As far as human relationships are concerned, what could be the irony in the use of first, the telescope and later the binoculars in the film?
- Comment on Loach and Laverty’s depiction of the streets and the interiors in the film. In what way could they contribute to the story?
- What does the caravan represent in the film? Why is it placed in an idyllic location?
- Discuss the character of Pinball in light of what he says to Liam after he hits the car into the health club: “I would have done anything for you”. In light of Pinball’s words, also think about Liam and his mother.
- What could the knife Douglas gives Liam represent?
- What could the flat Douglas gives Liam represent?
- What could the vast sea at the end of the film represent?
- What could be the significance of a toothless grandfather in the film?
- What does Chantelle represent in the story? What does she mean to Liam? What does she represent in a capitalist context?
- What is the significance of the song “I’ll Stand by You” (performed by the Pretenders) in the story?
- Identify some important steps in Liam’s personality transformation and discuss them in light of the social and economic factors as presented in the film.
- Why could Liam be regarded as an anti-hero?
- Audiences outside Britain (and even some in Britain) may have difficulty understanding the dialects and accents in the film. Why do you think Ken Loach and Paul Laverty (the scriptwriter) keep these dialects and accents in Sweet Sixteen?
- Discuss the irony in the title of the film. [Remember the irony in Loach’s It’s a Free World]
- According to Branston & Stafford (1996), some of the typical characteristics of a Ken Loach film are as follows: “use of actors who are not stars”, “naturalistic acting style”, “location shooting”, “documentary filming techniques”, “scenes in narrative sequence to encourage the involvement of the audience”. Why do you think Loach gives priority to these as a filmmaker? Discuss these characteristics in relation to Sweet Sixteen.
- What could be Ken Loach’s motive for making this film? What is your reaction to the social issues depicted in the film?
© Ali Nihat Eken, Istanbul, June 2008
Photo credit: Sixteen Films