Looking for Eric

Starring Steve Evets, Eric Cantona, Stephanie Bishop and Gerard Kerans. Directed by Ken Loach
Rated MA 15+ (strong coarse language). 119 mins.

When the group of postie-mates, middle-aged, beer-bellied, some slow, others jokey, start with a self-help exercise for their friend, Eric Bishop (Steve Everts), we realise that not everyone needs long-term Woody Allen type therapy or psychoanalysis, but that a team of friends can do a great deal to help one another.

Then, when the exercise leads to looking at oneself through the eyes of someone one loves and/or admires (and they select, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Fidel Castro and Sammy Davis Jr), we wonder whom we would choose.  But, it is a great exercise when put into practice by Eric Bishop.  He has chosen the great French soccer player for Manchester United, Eric Cantona, a wiz at scoring but temperamental.  His poster is on the wall.  He appears to Eric Bishop (and is billed as 'lui-meme) all the way through this serious and often very funny film, discussing life, offering advice, insights and challenges.  And it works.

Funny? Therapy?  A film by Ken Loach?

Well, Ken Loach is now 70 and shows that the most ardent of socially concerned film-makers can mellow with age.

Once more he directs a screenplay by his collaborator on all films since the mid-90s, Scot Paul Laverty, and it is a popular winner (even if soccer tactics are a mystery and Eric Cantona is unknown or is the sportsman-turned-actor in Elizabeth and French Film amongst others).

Loach stays again with the lives of ordinary, working-class people, his eye and his ear attuned to their daily routines, disappointments and joys, mistakes and hopes, angers and desperation.  Loach is always sympathetic.

In the background are local thugs who enjoy manipulation and some psychopathic terrorising (and putting clips of it on YouTube).  Loach has no time at all for them.  Audiences will enjoy their uproarious comeuppance at the hands of an camera of the busloads of Manchester United fans in Cantona masks (with Cantona along for the ride).  They threaten to put this footage on Blue Tube (only to be brought up-to-date on YouTube!).

But the human stories that Loach so likes to explore carry through: youthful love, panic, disappointments, personal frustration, impossibility of communication, recalcitrant step-sons, single mother and baby.  The word 'forgiveness' is discussed by the two Erics but we think that it is impossible for Eric Bishop to be forgiven by his ex-wife.  But, with Cantona's challenging about possibilities and speaking the truth, we find that reaching out, listening, reflection on errors, human contact are far more enabling than we might have imagined.

This is an often exhilarating entertainment, funny and simply wise (as long as you can live with the super-abundant expletives).

Looking for Eric was the winner of the Ecumenical Award, Cannes 2009.

Icon Films  Out September 24

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

 


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