Looking for Eric

film_LookingforEricRemember Play It Again, Sam, when the spirit of Bogie coaches Woody Allen to be tough and cool in the face of life’s challenges? It’s a similar deal in Ken Loach’s sly urban comedy Looking For Eric, where Loach’s sad-sack, midlife protagonist turns for inspiration to legendary soccer great Eric Cantona. Loach, the prolific British director best known for gritty, slice-of-life realism dramas (Ladybird, Ladybird; My Name Is Joe; The Wind That Shakes The Barley) lightens up here with unexpected elements of comedy, fantasy, and romance. There’s a dark side to the story, of course, and plenty of raucous profanity, but mostly, this is a funny, upbeat film about conquering one’s inner loser and going for the goal. Steve Evets is solid and crackling with nervy energy as Eric Bishop, a postal worker in industrial Manchester at the end of his short fuse. His life is going nowhere, his adopted teenage sons don’t respect him, and babysitting his new grandchild will soon put him back in contact with first wife, Lily (Stephanie Bishop), whom he still loves, but abandoned 25 years earlier when he couldn’t face the responsibilities of parenthood. What’s constant in his life is his crew of supportive mates (they have names like “Meatballs” and “Spleen”), and their devotion to the mighty Manchester United soccer team. film_looking_for_ericNicking dope from his son’s stash one night, Eric turns for guidance to his hero, French-born Manchester United star Eric Cantona, “the greatest Center Forward the world has ever seen”— and Cantona materializes in his room (and at other key moments as the story progresses) to offer his trademark poetic, if obscure, bon mots of advice. Cantona (he retired from football in 1998) plays himself in the film; famed for his aphoristic philosophizing off the field, he’s terrific fun here as a droll life coach. At his urging, Eric dares to kick all the brain-sapping TVs out of his house, untangle his son from a local gangster, and pursue the woman he loves. This is probably as close to a feel-good movie as Loach will ever get, but come prepared to listen up: the North Country accents are porridge-thick, Cantona’s French accent all but impenetrable, and a climactic scene where everyone talks through masks is like watching a foreign film without subtitles. (Not rated) 116 minutes. (★★★) Watch film trailer >>>

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