Small Faces

Though the comparisons are inevitable, Gillies MacKinnon's Scottish coming-of-age tale is far less stylish and far more personal than Danny Boyle's higher-profile Trainspotting. Small Faces paints a grim portrait of 1968 Glasgow, a desperate, working-class city shackled by gang rivalries. Parental authority is virtually non-existent as roving packs of young thugs wage war on the city's ghost-like streets. MacKinnon uses three brothers as his cross-section of this urban hell, making the youngest child his narrator. And like all coming-of-age stories, there is tragedy, redemption and hope for a better tomorrow. Despite the conventionality, Small Faces works extraordinarily well, thanks to MacKinnon's refusal to stereotype his characters: The narrator, played by Iain Robertson, behaves stupidly and brilliantly, with the characteristic impulsiveness and naivete of a child. Even the villainous rival gang leader is portrayed as a victim of the time and place in which he lives. If MacKinnon is to be trusted as a historian, what miserable times they must have been.

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