Editor, Asia; Hong Kong, China (@Marshy00)

For the past three decades, Ken Loach has been the granddaddy of British Social Realism. His kitchen sink dramas focus on real people living normal lives, normally in working class Britain. He has occasionally ventured out of his comfort zone with films like LAND AND FREEDOM and THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY, with much critical success - the latter won the Palme D'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. But it's his depictions of Middle England that have built his career and to which he returns for his latest film, LOOKING FOR ERIC.

So, who should he choose as his latest collaborator but legendary Gaul and Red Devil, Eric Cantona, he of the upturned collar and upturned boot, where controversy and oddball philosophising went hand in hand with some of the Premiership's most exciting football throughout the 1990s.  While he hasn't made much of an impact since his decision to trade the green for the screen, Cantona here puts in a very passable performance, helped by the fact he is playing himself.

Eric Bishop (Steve Evets from rock band The Fall) has hit a monumental mid-life crisis. With two failed marriages under his belt, he finds himself custodian of two teenage stepsons, occasional babysitter to his daughter's infant child and susceptible to crippling panic attacks, the latest of which just put him in hospital and almost lost him his job as a postman. When one of his sons becomes involved with a local gang and he is forced to face the ex-wife he walked out on twenty years ago, Eric has nowhere to turn to for help, until his hero, Eric Cantona, materialises in his bedroom to offer up his infamously unique take on life. 

Loach makes it crystal clear that Cantona is indeed a figment of Eric's imagination, but otherwise, the film is played dead straight. Loach strikes a delicate balance between gritty drama and broad comedy. When it is funny, LOOKING FOR ERIC is hilarious, but it is also harrowing and at times agonisingly tense. The film is filled with larger than life characters, from Eric's fellow Man Utd. fans, all sporting impressive beer guts and a good line in pub banter, who go by names like Spleen and Meatballs; to seriously intimidating hoodlums who'd set the dogs on Eric or his family without a second thought.

Loach uses his fantastical plot device as a means to examine the nature of celebrity and hero-worship. Cantona was almost God-like to his fans, even when he displayed a temperamental disposition and penchant for gibberish. It does not go unnoticed either that he received more love from the English than any other Frenchman I care to recall. 

Our heroes give us hope when all else fails, we project ourselves onto them and fail to grasp that they are but mere mortals too, with their own problems and failings. LOOKING FOR ERIC acknowledges that everybody needs a hero, everybody needs a friend, and everybody needs to feel they are part of something special - whether that means a family or a football team. Nothing says that better than the film's superb climax, where vandalism becomes an exercise in family bonding and mass intimidation has never seemed so life affirming.


Looking for Eric

  • Ken Loach
  • Paul Laverty (screenplay)
  • Steve Evets
  • Eric Cantona
  • Stephanie Bishop
  • Gerard Kearns
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Ken LoachPaul LavertySteve EvetsEric CantonaStephanie BishopGerard KearnsComedyDramaFantasy

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