Friday, June 12, 2009

Looking For Eric (15)

Directed by Ken Loach
Written by Paul Laverty
On general release from 12th June 2009

The Eric in question here is not really Monsieur Cantona – the ‘mercurial’ Man U star turned actor, who plays himself – but Eric the Manchester postman (Steve Evets), whose emotional turmoil is founded on half-buried relationship issues and a general sense of alienation from his ‘team-mates’ and the world. Though he can’t communicate this to anyone in his life, he tells all to a giant poster of his ‘god’, until the icon apparently comes to life. So will the real Eric stand up? He certainly will…

Cantona turns in a wonderful performance, sending up his philosopher persona, whilst still offering his postie friend decent advice. We learn his greatest memory of his playing days is not the dazzling runs, the screaming shots, or the showy individualist tricks. No, it is a surprise pass to Dennis Irwin on the edge of the box. The hollow ‘self-help’ approach to improving your life is also mercilessly mocked, as it absolutely needs to be. No, you must “trust your team-mates always”, and work with them to achieve your goals. Of course, this trust can’t come from out of nowhere; it is events that change people and their relationships. But when events threaten the life of Evets’ character, he finds he has many, many people in his squad.

Occasionally horrific, often desperately sad, yet ultimately joyful, Looking For Eric sits somewhere between Loach’s own Riff-Raff; It’s A Wonderful Life and Fight Club. It’s a bit of a departure for the director. Though his usual social conscience and commitment to naturalism are here, the ‘grittiness’ of the scenes he depicts is tempered with dashes of knockabout banter and camaraderie that he normally downplays when giving working class life a rare big screen outing. In particular, John Henshaw as ‘Meatballs’ is full of dry humour and wisecracks. So it’s interesting that Loach has added this element during the onset of economic crisis, at a time when it is most needed. As a result, this film glows with belief in the power of ‘ordinary people’. Meatballs is a “fucking postman”, you are whatever you are, and together the people who make this world go round can do anything.

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