Looking for Eric
d. Ken Loach / 2009 / UK / 116 mins
Viewed at: The Box @ FACT (Liverpool, UK)
I have to admit to a particular fondness for the collected works of Ken Loach, from his docudrama work on the BBC’s The Wednesday Play, to his fully fledged political documentaries and, of course, his enviable roster of feature films. Whether heavily partisan or deeply personal, Loach’s films are always politically charged, always engaging.
Looking For Eric certainly leans toward the lighter end of the Loach spectrum, although it is not without its moralizing – something at which I would normally scoff, but seem to accept wholeheartedly from Loach. In tandem with the gentle tale of an aging postman (and struggling single father) whose weed-induced state brings a hallucinated life coach in the form of Eric Cantona, there is also a much more serious side exploring the scourge of gangs and guns in contemporary Manchester. (Although this seems to be an aspect that has almost been marketed out of the film in the UK and may have caught some viewers unawares.)
Not content with being one of the most accessible Loach films of recent years – particularly in England, where Eric Cantona is still revered as one of the greatest footballers to grace the Premier League – Looking for Eric has a big heart, a wonderful set-piece finale and a series of performances good enough to outclass that smattering of naysaying critics (on both sides of the political divide) who continually bemoan Loach’s obsession with the working classes.
And besides, how could anyone dislike a film whose leading man once played bass for The Fall?