Socialist Worker

Looking for Eric

Award-winning director Ken Loach’s new film shows how we are all stronger together – and it makes you laugh, writes Kelly Hilditch

Issue No. 2155

Steve Evets and Eric Cantona in Looking for Eric

Steve Evets and Eric Cantona in Looking for Eric


Looking for Eric combines a comedy with a story about postal workers and former Manchester United star Eric Cantona.

But before going to see it I didn’t have terribly high hopes for this latest offering from the always interesting but not generally cheerful Loach.

Reading an interview with Cantona didn’t help – he describes the film as a conversation between him and his fans.

Fortunately it’s more than that, although general knowledge about Cantona’s career may help people enjoy the film.

The film is about Eric Bishop, a postal worker, who is a man at the end of his tether.

He has gone through two failed marriages, the second of which left him the custodian of two teenage stepsons, and a reminder of his past means that as the film opens he is driving repeatedly the wrong way round a roundabout.

In truth, this is a film about someone picking themselves up when they’ve hit rock bottom with a little help from their friends, both real and imaginary.

And it is funny.

Manchester United supporter Eric conjures up the image of his hero Cantona, whose life-coaching and advice seems to offer him a way out of his mess.

Where the film works best is the way that Eric’s fellow posties rally round him.

Therapy

They organise an improvised Paul McKenna therapy exercise at his home.

His best friend Meatballs, played by John Henshaw – who is the manager in the current Post Office TV adverts – instructs the workers that they each have to try to make Eric laugh.

Watching them attempt one by one to make Eric laugh is really rather touching (with varying levels of success).

Unfortunately the film falls down in parts as it tries to be both a light-hearted working class comedy, in a similar vein to the Full Monty, and also a drama.

There’s too little film for the amount of drama thrown in, which takes up issues such as mental health, gangs and gun crime.

The result is that a lot of the characters feel sketchy, which is a real shame.

As always Loach has pulled together a stellar cast and there are moments that are both touching and funny – a little less story and a little more time spent on the characters would have made this a much better film.

But this is still a film that is well worth watching.

Looking for Eric is a film about how we are stronger together than we are on our own, whether you get that from football or the camaraderie of other workers.

And that’s something almost as rare in film as Ken Loach making you laugh.


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Reviews
Tue 9 Jun 2009, 18:52 BST
Issue No. 2155
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