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Looking for Eric

October 6, 2013

Looking for Eric (2009)
Director: Ken Loach
Actors: Steve Evets, Eric Cantona, Stephanie Bishop

Scene-from-Looking-for-Er-001.jpg (220×132)

Synopsis: Dishevelled middle-aged Mancunian postman Eric (Steve Evets) receives unlikely inspiration for turning his life around in the guise of Man Utd legend, Eric Cantona.

Review: Admittedly this isn’t one of Ken Loach’s grander, more robust and overtly politicised works, in fact, you could argue some elements of his narrative construct are a touch clumsy and mawkish, but the sheer warmth and humanity that emits off the screen in this Mancunian fable make it yet another pleasing addition to his amazing body of work.

Once again, Loach finds validation in his naturalistic predilections – the handheld cinematography from Barry Akroyd is gorgeous, and his decision to cast provincial actors and really envelop his narrative world in the accents, cadences and sensibilities of his Manchester milieu lends great atmosphere to his story of a run-down middle-aged postman trying to gain some dignity again in his life.

Obviously, the key inspiration/gimmick of the film is Eric Cantona’s literal visitations to Loach’s main character Eric Bishop, and although it’s a very comic and touching conceit, making great mileage out of the sheer unlikely juxtaposition between this Gallic, ‘exotic’ superstar and scruffy, irritable Manchester ‘little man’, there doesn’t seem to have been much dramaturgical scrutiny applied beyond the slightly hackneyed idea that Cantona provides Eric with some general philosophical succour. For it to work more convincingly, Eric needed to be more obviously depressed and suicidal, when in reality he seems merely muddled, disorganised and frustrated, and in need of more motivation and structure in his life. I also think the film’s ‘third act’ conflict doesn’t really work, and the scene of Eric’s Mancunian mates winning the battle of wills with the local gangster – though funny and imprinting the sense of a communal, collective spirit – doesn’t seem a remotely believable climax to properly resolve the extremely serious intimidation and violent threat that this gangster holds over Eric’s family.

Still, even Ken Loach in minor key is a major step-up from most of what passes through our cinemas nowadays, and in some respects the film’s whimsical spirit necessitates the viewer to make a few concessions with their critical antennae, and relax into its uplifting air of camaraderie. (October 2013)

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