Looking For Eric

Looking for Eric is Ken Loach‘s latest effort. In an opening scene that didn’t really work for me (mainly cause I didn’t see what was happening) Eric drives rounds on a roundabout until someone crashes into his car. Eric is a postman and his colleagues are worried about him. Eric (played by Steve Evets) has to raise two teenage boys by himself, ever since his second wife left him. He’s not on speaking terms with his first wife either, even though they have a daughter. Their daughter is studying and a young mother. With her final exams due, the daughter asks for her parents’ help: if her dad couldn’t bring the little one to her at the end of the afternoon but to his ex-wife, she’d have some extra time to work for school. And this is what freaks Eric out, so much so that he steps into his car and starts driving… until someone, eventually, crashes into him.

But there’s more to the film. Eric’s colleague Meatballs (you may remember John Henshawfrom the shows The Cops and Early Doors) has an obsession with self-help books and one of them includes an exercise where you imagine yourself being looked at by your idol. Eric takes this a bit too literally and suddenly starts imagining Eric Cantona is actually in the room. Cantona, the ex-footballer, advises Eric and Eric needs a lot of advice. Not only because he doesn’t dare speaking to his first wife anymore (for reasons we’ll learn later in the film) but because his older sons is hanging out with bad boys. Eric’s meddling doesn’t really help, in fact it only makes things worse for the family.

You may ask yourself during and after the film how real Eric Cantona is to Eric the postman. There are scenes where he’s having conversations with him that make it look as if Eric has a hard time distinguishing between fact and fiction. However, when Eric and Cantona are working out in the fields, Eric’s colleagues spot him and Eric stops imagining Cantona’s presence immediately.

Cantona, it must be mentioned, is having the time of his life here: he can act as well as be himself and revel in his former football glory. It’s not the first time Cantona has acted (in fact it’s his 15th film) and it shows. In typical Loach style there’s also one major role for a debut actor/actress and here it’s Stephanie Bishop (as ex-wife Lily). Credit where it’s due: you can’t really spot it’s her first film.

It’s also not the first film by Loach, which brings me to my dislikes about the movie. I know why the gangster kids are around Eric’s older son and I know it all needs to build to the climax scene (which, pardon my language, is fucking great – there is quite some swearing in the film), but the police invasion happening on exactly the moment it shouldn’t arrive (a family reunion) … come on, that’s just an attempt by Loach or Paul Laverty (the writer) to get to the next part of the film. All this could’ve been presented in a much more subtle way: the unnecessary arrests are either Loach’s way of showing the British police suck or it’s a movie trick to maximize stirring up the viewer’s emotion. I found it severely exaggerated and it put me off the film for quite a while.

Nevertheless, the climax of the film is great and helps the film overcome its weaker points. It’s not the best Ken Loach, but if you liked Raining Stones, you should also check out this one.

6/10
(thanks to cinebel.be for the images)

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