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Looking For Eric - Review

Looking For Eric

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ERIC Cantona and Ken Loach may not seem like obvious team-mates when it comes to making movies. But their collaboration on Looking For Eric turns out to be a match made in heaven.

Loach’s latest, scripted by Paul Laverty from an original idea by Cantona, is a light-hearted, engaging and frequently quite poignant examination of the football legend’s relationship with his fans as viewed through an imaginary friendship he strikes up with a down-at-heel postman.

It’s much more playful than the type of film we’ve traditionally come to expect from Loach, even though there are nods to the social realism that’s implicit with growing up around certain areas of Manchester.

But… and this is crucial, it’s a film that can be enjoyed by a wide range of viewers, from Man Utd fans, to lovers of the game, to even those who might hate football in the first place. At its heart, Looking for Eric is a people story and one that boasts some universal themes.

South Manchester postman Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) is on the decline. His life is in tatters after two failed marriages and he’s struggling to cope with his two unruly step-sons and the occasional onset of panic attacks.

Unable to connect with or confide in anyone other than a poster of his beloved Cantona in his bedroom, Eric suddenly gets a reality kick when the legend himself appears in his room and begins tutoring him on how to get his life back together.

Initially sceptical, Eric gives in to his imagination and begins to adopt Cantona’s bizarre training regime, re-connecting with his sons and a long-lost first love and regaining his self-esteem and worth. It equips him well for the challenges that lie in wait…

Looking For Eric undoubtedly trades from a bizarre device but is aware of its own absurdities at times and has plenty of fun with it in the process. And it’s an approach that transfers well to the audience.

It takes a little while to find its stride and occasionally struggles to mix the surreal elements with the gritty realism and violence that eventually invade but its populated by such winning characters that audiences should be too engrossed to notice.

Evets is a fascinating focal point as the beleaguered postie whose eventual awakening is worth rooting for, while Cantona is an enigmatic presence, poking fun at his own image whilst imparting some invaluable life lessons.

The scenes between the two of them are the best in the film, especially when offset with footage of Cantona in action or insights into his own memories of the game.

But Laverty’s screenplay also delivers some memorable supporting players, with best friends, colleagues, ex-loves and bolshy kids all having a part to play.

Loach’s management of all the various elements is typically astute, culminating in a feel-good finale that’s virtually guaranteed to bring on the cheers.

Looking For Eric is therefore a richly involving experience that comes highly recommended to any fan of cinema. It provides many goal-den moments to savour [sorry!].

Certificate: 15
Running time: 116mins
UK Release Date: June 12, 2009