Monday, June 07, 2010

Looking for Eric

Ken Loach at his top, again.

Though possibly his least political film, Ken Loach's 2009 release is unmistakeably Loachian in its unique blend of drama, comedy and social realism that long ago turned the man from Nuneaton into a national treasure.

Even at their most light-hearted and entertaining, Loach's films are never banal, superficial or mono-dimensional. Even when they depict day-dreaming, they never feels unreal. When they turn gritty or desperate, they remain tasteful and inspirational.

Looking for Eric will just grab you right from the start. The setting is so real and so ordinary, yet so original and unusual. It stands out from a mainstream saturated with obvious heroes, fast action, special effects and overclipping - which is where the likes of Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Shane Meadows gain immense credit.

While the premises are certainly not of the chirpy variety, the film never feels depressing. The script (courtesy of Loach's long-time collaborator Paul Laverty) is delivered in such a caring, quirky, uplifting manner that it's impossible not feel any empathy or involvement.

Looking for Eric is centred around a postman called Eric (Steve Evets), a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Having walked out on the love of his life is still haunting him and so is his troubled relationship with his teenage kids. His life is simply going nowhere.

After a botched suicide attempt, his excellent mates and colleagues decide to pick up the pieces and help him with some motivational techniques - some of which will include truly comical moments. Ask to think of a model to look up to on his road to recovery, long-term Man Utd fan Eric goes for his namesake and footballing legend Eric Cantona.

It's from that point on that the film enters unique territory, when Eric begins his imaginary conversations with Cantona - whether at home, or during his morning delivery - as the two try to find solutions to the protagonist's problems, with the French legend gradually and touchingly talking Eric into turning things round.

Although at times the film feels like a tribute to Man Utd's most cherished champion, the whole thing never feels conceited. Cantona can actually stand his own and even take the piss out of himself. His part in the film is just pure genius.

But the Cantona sections is only a part of what goes on. Eric goes through one emotional rollecoaster after the other: from attempting reconciliation with his former partner and sorting things out with his own kids, to the gut-wrenching discovery that his eldest son got lured into a gang. Further complications ensue, including an incredibly original twist which we won't reveal.

We said earlier that Looking for Eric is Ken Loach's least political film. But that is only because his previous films were incredibly political. In this case the message feels more like a leftist self-help book, if there ever was such a thing. It does well to acknowledge gritty realism, but it also offers a way out of things, primarily via old-school solidarity. Together we stand, basically, even in the face of the biggest adversity.

Absolutely amazing.


Anita said...

Saw it last year. Very sweet film. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

PS Glad you seem to have laid off the new government for the time being ;-P

Stan Moss said...

I'm afraid I disagree. Not one of Ken Loach's best. In fact, possibly his weakest. The ending, Claude, now that was really unfeasible + too soppy for my liking.

socialist sam said...

Populistic crap. Basically Loach vying for mainstream success.