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LOOKING FOR ERIC, 2009
Cast: Steve Evets, Eric Cantona, Stephanie Bishop, Gerard Kearns, Stefan Gumbs, Lucy-Jo Hudson
Eric a football fanatic postman whose life is descending in to crisis receives some life coaching from the famously philosophical Eric Cantona.
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Since itís premier at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Looking for Eric (dir. Ken Loach) has been showing around the film circuit since then and it will next be showing in the up-coming 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival. With strong critical acclaim and being shown at cinemas in many European countries, itís no surprise then that this is a brilliantly crafted, feel good film.
The story is set in a working-class Manchester area and it follows downtrodden postman Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) as he is struggling with looking after his disrespectful stepchildren and continues suffering from his past problems. After his friends from the post office try to help him by getting together and doing some mind-calming exercises, Bishop is then helped by an imagination of his football icon, Eric Cantona (played by himself). With the help of his hero, Eric starts getting his life back on track and to confront his past problems.
Even with the story being very simple and uplifting, itís surrounded by the life of working-class Britain and even though the focus is on the characters, it does bring an understanding of the situations they all face in this environment.
As my first Ken Loach film, I really enjoyed watching Looking for Eric and the way he directed it was very well done, so much so that I canít imagine it done in a better way.
The choice of the shots for when Eric Bishop is interacting with a character is selected really well, since each meeting he has with them changes the way itís framed and helps to make the characters more engaging throughout the length of the story. For example, when he first meets his ex-wife Lily (Stephanie Bishop) after years of not seeing her, their first meeting is showing Bishop hiding behind some boxes before finally making a move towards her and both giving each other small talk. Their friendship slowly grows from being awkward to being good friends when Lily confesses to Bishop that she grew personally stronger after their divorce and the way itís shot is simply a wide shot of them communicating, with close-ups being cut in to show their reactions.
For the decision to make the second half of the story darker and focussing on gun crime was something that was very interesting to take on and one that couldíve easily ruined the film. But because the director and the writer had mentioned the lead-up to the second half in the first half, it manages to balance out without ruining the entire experience.
The screenwriter on the film, Paul Laverty, has done a brilliant job in writing the story and likable characters. With a great collaboration with Ken Loach for many years now, they have done a great effort in this film.
On the first half of the story, the introduction to Eric Bishop was done really well since we got the idea that he was having a mental breakdown when we first see him driving on the wrong side of the road and when he returns from the hospital and heís treated disrespectfully by his step-children. The way that he talks to the imaginary Eric Catona is done as though heís actually talking to himself, but the fact that heís talking to his idol is done very authentically and respectfully for football fans. Over the course on the first half of the film, we see Bishop develop his characteristics and itís really interesting to see how he communicates with the other characters in his life.
For the second half of the story, the writer has decided to focus on gun crime and how Bishop must face the situation that one of his step-children have gotten themselves involved in. This does drive away from what couldíve been a typical feel good film and enter a dark subject matter to make this type of film a bit different. But this did affect the film a bit, since it was almost changing directions and even though Laverty managed to pull it off, he could have messed with the film. With Ken Loach as director, however, the film was saved from this situation.
Overall, the film is definitely worth going to see and it does live up to what the critics have been saying. If you are new to Ken Loach or you havenít seen his latest effort yet, do your best to get involved with this lovely modern British film.