Looking for Eric
Ken Loach :: UK :: 2008 :: 1h59
Ageing Manchester postman Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) lives an empty life with his two delinquent step sons. Taken in by panic attacks, one day he causes a car crash which (finally) wakes him to the reality of his predicament. He has a lot to face, not least of all his first wife and love, Lily. He needs help and the mythical Manchester football player Eric Cantona shows up to guide him along.
This is a very depressing film to watch, with superficial dialogues about football, uninspiring ones about relative poverty, unattractive locations and a simple story-line. The film is only saved, if you consider it to have any merit, by the screen time of the tough but sensitive Cantona who lightens things up a bit, with his meditative approach to life, his proverbs, his aphorisms and his strength of character.
Bishop pulls himself up on the power of his hero Cantona, but it all does not follow through. Without ruining the course of events, if they had really taken the actions they took in the film, he and his sons would presumably have been shot by gang members afterwards. If this is not enough, the character of Lily is completely implausible, if you run through your head what she has had to put up with, and being betrayed and lied to and the awful future which her ever forgiving nature will lead her to. For a film which is supposed to show a man picking himself up and re-building his life, with a little help from his friends, the story lends very little support to its central thesis on reflection.
As you watch the self absorbed Bishop, who has ruined many lives, ruin a few more, you can not help but wonder how a director should go about making a film which can function as uplifting for a class of people (such as these) who live miserable lives. The idea of Cantona, a local hero, to pull people up through admiration seems like a good idea. After all, what better way to aspire to more than to imitate those we love? But I think that cutting out Bishop, Lily and the delinquent sons & friends would have made more sense – just Cantona, the man, and his own struggles to make something of his life in Manchester. That would have given less cheap and easy emotional scenes and more idealistic substance.