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LOOKING FOR ERIC

SYNOPSIS:
Eric Bishop (Steve Evets), a middle-aged postman working for the Manchester sorting office, is going through a crisis. His second partner has not resurfaced although she has been released from prison a few months earlier. He is left alone with two difficult stepsons (Gerard Kearns, Stefan Grumbs) to look after while Sam (Lucy-Jo Hudson), his student daughter who has a newborn baby, wants him to get back in touch with Lily (Stephanie Bishop), her mother - his first wife. When in misery he pours out his troubles to the large poster of his French soccer idol, Eric Cantona, the philosophical footballer materializes and gives Eric the benefit of his aphorisms.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The levity in Paul Laverty's screenplay is the honey that makes the tough medicine go down in this unusual work from Ken Loach, whose general view of his world is usually more downbeat. But the comedy here is also based on deeply serious issues, ranging from estrangement and betrayal to guilt and fear - just to name the top few. Eric Evets makes a suitably shambolic Eric Bishop, whose life has been sliding downhill for the entire 20 years since he walked out on his lovely young first wife, Lily - played by Stephanie Bishop (whose oddly appropriate surname is a coincidence).

Now in charge of two typically chaotic and resentful teenage stepsons (great work from both Gerard Kearns and Stefan Grumbs) after a second relationship failed, Eric feels the whip hand of fate on his back, as their misadventures bring trauma to his house, and his daughter, Sam (Lucy-Jo Hudson) needs him to help babysit while she finishes her degree. At work, his football and beer mates try to cheer him up to no avail, and in the loneliness of his room, he confides in Eric Cantona, the great French soccer player whose feet worked a treat of feats for Manchester United.

Laverty and Loach had to navigate the magic realism of Cantona materialising in Eric's bedroom with great skill - they opted for utter simplicity and no special effects, which was the perfect choice. In this poor and untidy Manchester house, the mystery was quickly overshadowed by the reality of working class lives - this is the Loach we know and love. But the French born soccer star turns out to be something of a pleasant surprise (he is also one of the executive producers). Cantona's persona is likeable and natural, his capsules of wisdom are both wise and entertaining and we are drawn to his positive energy - as is the Eric who idolises him.

But even when things get really serious, Loach retains a firm grip on the tone of film, which is as close to the tone of real life as a film can get; it's funny one minute, deadly serious the next. The story of Eric's redemption and the changes that the combination of the two Erics trigger, is both satisfying and beautifully crafted. Looking for Eric is a worthwhile quest, and finding him is painful but ultimately joyous.

Review by Louise Keller:
A life affirming film whose gritty exterior hides an undercoat of silky humour and an unexpected soft heart, Looking for Eric marries harsh reality with a sprinkling of fantasy in the down to earth way at which Ken Loach excels. A Manchester postie finds it hard to cope, until he gets inspiration from his football hero, Eric Cantona, whose life size poster stuck on his bedroom wall, has become his conversation companion. Loach paints us a realistic, down to earth picture of Steve Evets' Eric Bishop, whose only similarity to his controversial, heroic and popular idol is his first name. The leap of faith that Loach asks us to take is nothing short of a pleasure; we are always grounded in truth. It's a crowd-pleaser that is involving, heartfelt and funny when you least expect it.

The day starts badly for Eric: there's a car accident, a trip to hospital followed by chaos at home. It takes us no time at all to understand how Eric is balancing on the edge. There is no woman in his life and his two grown up stepsons, who are mixing with the wrong crowd, are out of control. All his feelings of insecurity from the circumstances that led up to the loss of the love his life, his first wife Lily (Stephanie Bishop) are washing over him again, as he sees her again for the first time after 20 long years. That night when they met and danced the night away seems an eternity ago, just like those blue suede shoes he was wearing, and on which he spent a whole week's wages back then.

The first laughs come when one of Eric's down-to-earth and awkwardly well-meaning mates Meatballs (John Henshaw) buys a self-help book whose words of purported wisdom are suggested to the unlikely group squashed in Eric's living room. What happens next is all the more enjoyable, the less you know. All I will say is that it involves Eric's French football hero Cantona and some philosophical gems of wisdom including 'Without danger, you can't get beyond danger,' plus issues involving trust, forgiveness and making tough decisions. There's a subplot involving gangsters and as Eric's life starts to turn around, we are behind him all the way as dire circumstances offer eye-popping twists as the new man finds a new routine and new rules and bitter-sweet hilarity that offer a brand new future. A true feel-good film success.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

LOOKING FOR ERIC (MA)
(UK/France/Italy/Belgium/Spain, 2009)

CAST: Steve Evets, Eric Cantona, Stephanie Bishop, Gerard Kearns, Stefan Gumbs, Lucy-Jo Hudson, Cole Williams, Dylan Williams, Matthew McNulty, Laura Ainsworth, Maxton Beesley, Kelly Bowland

PRODUCER: Rebecca O'Brien

DIRECTOR: Ken Loach

SCRIPT: Paul Laverty

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Barry Ackroyd

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Fergus Clegg

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 24, 2009







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