The Felix 1995 Best European Film
Evening Standard British Film Award 1998 Best Actor (Robert Carlyle)
Havana Film Festival Coral Award 1996 Best Work of a Non-Latin American Director on a Latin America Subject (Ken Loach)
London Critics Circle Film Awards ALFS Award 1998 British Actor of the Year (Robert Carlyle)
Venice Film Festival The President of the Italian Senate's Gold Medal 1996 (Ken Loach)
Oyanka Cabezas Scott Glenn
An extraordinary illustration of the power of the cinematic art form. (www.filmjournal.com)
Carlyle (Riff-Raff, Trainspotting) turns in a sensitive, humorous portrait of an ordinary man thrown into extraordinary circumstances and proves himself a convincing spokesman for brotherhood and solidarity. BYTITLE
Robert Carlyle as George gives a warm, complex performance as the ordinary bus driver from Glasgow. He shows great vulnerability and underlying strength in his journey from his familiar territory to the battle fields of Nicaragua. Cinefile Reviews
Ken Loach's Carla's Song is one of his richest but most troublesome films. It starts close to a romantic comedy, as Glasgow bus driver Robert Carlyle falls for a penniless Nicaraguan refugee (Oyanka Cabezas), whom he has stood up for against a conductor. Carried along by the charm of its actors, this section has a magical quality, unusually for Loach, oblivious of social realism. Daily Telegraph
Loach displays a sensitivity which flourishes best in a British setting, and this means that the more engaging pieces are the ones set in Glasgow, with Carlyle displaying his own strength and vulnerability. Empire
Robert Carlyle turns in an exceptional performance. The Face
The two leads show humour, vulnerability and defiance in equal measure in the face of often appalling circumstances. Festival Films
Robert Carlyle is effective, as he was in his previous films such as The Full Monty, and Oyanka Cabeza's performance is affecting although she does not have the sort of beauty that would attract most men to her as obsessively as she affects George. Harvey S. Karten
Carlyle is superb, and delivers an intelligent and moving performance as a basically decent man thrust into a situation beyond his sphere of experience. Greg King
The early scenes--set in a well-detailed Glasgow, and powered by Carlyle's regular-guy mix of spiky and affable-promise.. Leonardo
The film does have some decent performances at the heart of it (especially Carlyle's) and a pleasingly worthwhile and appropriately realistic ending. London Calling
Robert Carlyle, the psychopath from Trainspotting plays the wonderful role of a funny rebellious Glasgow bus driver. Monitor Cinema
Carlyle proves more than ever that he can control and inhabit the emotional life of a movie. Thanks to him, and Loach's unblinking camera, the war-torn Nicaragua of Carla's Song feels dead real. Mr. Showbiz Movie Guide
Returning to work with Loach is Robert Carlyle, of The Full Monty, Trainspotting and Go Now, who started in Riff-Raff back in 1991. At his most profane and pugnacious, he plays George, a maverick garbage-mouthed Glasgow bus driver who seems eager to be dismissed--and who, after helping a beautiful fare-beater named Carla (Oyanka Cabezas), is...As George, Carlyle outclasses the rest of the cast, from relative newcomer Cabezas to Scott Glenn, whose jungle-wise Bradley--a human-rights activist with a shady past--is well over the top. But Carlyle is thoroughly enjoyable to watch, even at this most indignant. Newsday
The character Robert Carlyle plays in Carla's Song is a Glasgow bus-driver - a character who, in the script, possesses one skill that had previously eluded the multi-talented Carlyle: he could drive a double-decker Glasgow Transport Routemaster. He mastered it in six days.
"The important thing for Bobby was learning to drive that bus," says Loach, "because that rivets everything he does. That physical competence - being able to deal with a vehicle that size - gave him a strength and authority which just spilled over into everything else."
"When I passed the test, that was one of the proudest moments of my life," says Carlyle. "The guys up at Knightswood training school [in Glasgow] helped me a great deal, but I had exactly the same tuition anyone would have: six days. I didn't expect to pass. I'd been told that I was under no pressure or obligation to do so; the part didn't depend on it. Well, ha ha! I think if I hadn't passed it, we could have been in trouble, because some of the things I was doing with the bus - like reversing through red lights - just wouldn't have been on. The police allowed it, because, OK, the guy's got a bus license!"
"Turning left, that's the most difficult thing about driving a bus. You've got to push it forward. What you must always remember is that the wheels are six feet behind you, and that's what turns. You need to go past your normal point of turn, as you would in a car. And once you've done that, it's a case of making the bus drift round the corner, rather than turn it with the wheel. If you turn the wheel too much, you're going to go over the kerb and maybe some people's toes. You just don't see it. I mean, you could run over someone and, if you're driving the bus, you wouldn't know, quite easy!"