REVIEW: Ken Loach Has Oppressive Fun with Soccer Pic Looking for Eric
Few filmmakers are as achingly earnest in their political views, and as deeply in touch with the soul of the proletariat, as Ken Loach is. If only we could just admire his movies without having to actually watch them.
But even Loach is capable of breaking out of his mold now and then, and he probably needs to. It's not an easy lot, being a devoted and prolific filmmaker who keeps making socially committed pictures that not many people see. (The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a grim and sometimes deeply affecting drama set during the Irish Civil War, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2006, but you wouldn't exactly call it a crowdpleaser.) And so, with Looking for Eric, Loach tries his hand at comedy -- or at least a comedy of sorts. In this wry kitchen-sink fantasy, a down-on-his luck Manchester postal worker named Eric (Steve Evets) comes close to cracking up: His daughter has asked him to look after her baby daughter while she finishes up her degree.
But that means he'll be forced to have contact with the baby's fellow caretaker, his ex-wife Lily (Stephanie Bishop), whom he abandoned 30 years ago when their daughter was just an infant herself. Eric has never reckoned with his true feelings for Lily, nor has he ever really parsed for himself why he left her so abruptly and so cruelly. In the interim, he's been busy raising two boys (played by Gerard Kearns and Stephan Gumbs), the sons of the woman he married after leaving Lily. She's long gone, but the boys are now teenagers, and even though Eric loves them, they're making his life a living hell.
Eric is so disoriented that he nearly kills himself, or possibly someone else, going the wrong way on a roundabout, and his post-office pals -- led by the roly-poly, and aptly named, Meatballs, played by John Henshaw -- decide it's time for an intervention. But he also benefits from intervention of a more divine sort: Just as he's gazing at a poster of his hero, former Manchester United football star Eric Cantona, imploring him for advice, Cantona himself appears in his room, like the Virgin Mary in Bernadette's grotto. In his thick French accent Cantona -- who plays himself -- dispenses priceless words of advice, counseling Eric on the necessity of pulling his life together and urging him to be confident and assertive, instead of just the perennial hangdog pushover he's been for most of his life.
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