Looking For Eric (Ken Loach, 2009)

15Jul10


Steve Everts (Eric Bishop), Eric Cantona (Eric Cantona). Screenplay by Paul Laverty. Directed by Ken Loach. Rating: 15. Running time: 116 minutes.

I’m completely perplexed. This one’s just mental. What is it? A paean to a footballing hero, a treatise on working class life, a delve into a past love affair, a gun-related thriller or a laugh out loud comedy? It is, somehow, utterly compelling, but it also honestly and quite ridiculously flips from one of these plot aspects to another constantly without pause for two hours non-stop.

Eric is a divorced bachelor and postman, who’s never really got over his first girlfriend and whose children treat him like shit and spend their time delving into Manchester’s underworld. His pleasure consists in visiting the local with his mates, full stop. His hero is Eric Cantona. Staring at his bedroom poster of him one night for inspiration when on a bit of a downer, he turns around to find, wait, no other than Cantona himself sitting in his chair. ‘Fuckin’ hell!’ is the response. Cantona proceeds to churn out nuggets of philosophical wisdom in French before translating, guiding the lesser Eric through life, and even fitting in some trumpet playing and dancing to Elvis’ ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ along the way. Now you know what I mean by mental.

This only works because Eric is poor and Cantona is both foreign and has a reputation for pretentia and elusiveness. It would only be funny in some kind of pathetic way if it was Shearer giving the advice, or if it was nevertheless Cantona but the man in trouble was a middle class bourgeois business owner. The latter wouldn’t work because the bourgeois don’t revere sports players all out of proportion, for starters; that’s just not classy enough.

As it is, though, Looking For Eric is somehow genuinely hilarious at times, whilst also bizarrely retaining moments of sheer emotional drama related to the underworld issue, before duly proceeding to take the piss out of them again. I have no idea why it flips like this; the film has serious identity issues. I’m also slightly concerned and disturbed by the way it seems to think the retributive revenge that goes on towards the end of the film, whilst hilarious, is also genuinely justice… Argh, enough analysis. Just try not to think about it too much and laugh when Cantona turns on the record player by flicking his wrist in Jedi force-fashion, and then laugh at yourself for laughing at it. I did.

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