Looking for Eric film review: ‘av a laf, ‘av a cry
In Looking for Eric director Ken Loach simultaneously serves up a grim urban drama and a hilarious genre-defying crowd pleaser with the story of a down-in-the-dumps mope approaching mid-life crisis who is visited, counselled and joined for smokos by his hero, soccer player Eric Cantona. Cantona – played by the real thing – is a hallucination but the problems in Eric Bishop’s (Steve Evets) life are very real: his job is dull, his relationship with his ex-wife is rocky, his two teenage boys don’t listen to him and, worse, they mix with the proverbial but all too real Wrong Crowd. Struggling to process all of it, Eric seems throughout just a jot or two away from full-blown clinical depression.
Even with Cantona’s hallucinatory visits you never doubt the film’s realism. Loach uses it to conjure a slight but impressionable comedy/drama until, unexpectedly, around the half way mark, Looking For Eric clicks into a higher gear and the story obtains – seemingly out of nowhere – an intense emotional gravity as the Wrong Crowd tangent becomes grittier and heavier. The film gradually grows on you until it becomes nigh-on adorable: sweet, intense, fun, dramatic and capable of shifting chords quickly and with real deftness of touch.
Steve Evets is sensational as the peeved and piqued protagonist, capturing Eric’s angst, neurosis, flustered and frustrated persona perfectly. The characters in this film are endearing and feel so real you can almost reach out and touch them – or more appropriately, considering it’s set in Manchester, where the boys ‘av a laugh and a drink – share a pint or three of floor with them. Loach’s direction is slight at all times; he never comes close to overplaying or overweening the material even when it becomes substantially darker in tone and the result is a funny, dramatic, ultimately uplifting and difficult to pigeonhole story stuffed with a good whack of British-flavoured camaraderie.
Looking for Eric’s Australian theatrical release date: September 24, 2009.