20 July 2009 | Mick-Jordan
Griity, realistic - fantasy
From 'Cathy Come Home' to 'Kes through to 'Raining Stones' to 'The Wind That Shakes The Barley' the constant element of a Ken Loach film is striking realism. Everything is so natural, so ordinary that you stop looking at a story unfold on a big screen but look out at life going on through a massive window in the corner of the cinema. People talk like real people talk not to advance a story but to say what they're thinking, they talk over each other, round each other and sometimes stumble over their words. Events don't take place in a neat progressive order – they just happen, the way life happens. And yet Loach still manages to construct and set out these moments and these characters to tell a coherent natural story with a beginning, middle and end. Even when making a fantasy about a middle-aged man and his imaginary friend he doesn't alter the realism and naturalism of his approach one little bit.
Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) is on the verge of a complete breakdown moving from depression to despair. He lives with his two stepsons who treat him with contempt and use his house as a doss-house for their mates. He is still haunted by his biggest regret in his life – walking out on Lily (Stephanie Bishop) his first wife and first love nearly thirty years earlier when their daughter was still a toddler. When that now grown up daughter approaches him to help with looking after her child he realises Lily is going to become a part of his life again and he is terrified of how to deal with it or indeed if he can. His friends see that he is falling apart and rally around and try to help but it is his idol Eric Cantona (Eric Cantona) who he turns to for advice on how to cope. Cantona isn't there of course, it's all in his head but you get the impression that Eric B. knows that and that that's not the point anyway. It helps.
Although this is not necessarily a comedy it has like all of Ken Loache's films some very funny moments and some very funny characters. It has some very brutal ones too. A gentle domestic scene is suddenly interrupted by a shocking and very noisy home invasion – Eric's stepsons get caught up with gangland killers – and Eric himself gets (very) publicly humiliated by that gang's leader. But at its heart this is a feel-good film and leaves you with a satisfied grin and a real sense of justice being done. – And Cantona is damn good too!