LOOKING FOR ERIC is one of the best films I have seen this year. It has everything - by turns laugh-out-loud funny and desperately sad - beautifully acted - utterly authentic - a middle-aged rom-com and a telling depiction of life in modern England - not to mention an insightful analysis of modern professional football. Oh yes, and it contains a touching set of cameos from legendary centre-forward, sometime actor and incomprehensible philosophe*, Eric "King" Cantona.
The core of the film is a brilliant performance by Steve Evets as Eric Bishop, a middle-aged post-man on the edge of a nervous breakdown. He abandoned his beloved first wife, Lily, thirty years ago and is still riddled by shame. His second wife has abandoned him, leaving him with two surly teenage stepsons, entangled in gun-crime. In desperation, his sub-conscious summons up Eric Cantona - an inspirational leader who will give him the courage to re-connect with Lily and save his sons, chiefly by holding onto his friends and "trusting his team-mates".
The resulting film is a marvel of tight and courageous scripting. Writer Paul Laverty doesn't shy away from grief, or from bawdy British working-class humour. Somehow, the sentimental scenes never seem schmaltzy, the dramatic scenes never seem unrealistic or forced and the political commentary is handled lightly. Most impressively, Ken Loach had so carefully entwined the peril and the fantasy elements that I utterly bought into the rather fantastic and cathartic denouement.
Overall, LOOKING FOR ERIC is a wonderful and memorable film. People who don't know about soccer, or about Cantona, need not shy away from it. It's a deeply human, warm, dark, film. If I see a better movie this year, I'll be very surprised.
LOOKING FOR ERIC played Cannes 2009 but was beaten by Haneke's THE WHITE RIBBON for the Palme D'Or. It is currently on release in France and opens in Belgium and the UK next week. It opens in the Netherlands on September 17th, in Norway on October 16th, in Brazil on December 11th and in Spain on January 8th 2010.
*"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."