Film Review: Looking For Eric


Born of a Catalan mother whose family fought Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War and a father who juggled a nursing career and a passionate interest in painting, Cantona’s humble lineage portrays a character quite different to the one we should have expected from the one on the field, with his upturned collar and puffed out chest, his air always suggested that of a French nobleman; that and his football eventually led to him to be known as King.

In Looking for Eric (directed by Ken Loach, screenplay by Paul Laverty,) he plays himself as the saviour to downtrodden anti-hero Eric Bishop. When things start to get the better of the Man Utd obsessed postman and his thoughts turn to suicide, Cantona appears and becomes his motivation.

It is at his prompting that Eric stands up to his indolent stepsons. It is Cantona who convinces Eric to re-ignite his relationship with his first wife. And it is Cantona’s inspiration that drives Eric to stand up to the gang leader whose stranglehold over his stepsons threatens to upset the happy new relationship he has developed with his family.

The film shows us the private life of Eric and his family but of course is not without its football, and the joys and pains of each mirror the other. Eric explains the emotion behind football, and through this we are granted an insight into Eric’s release: “where else can you sing with your mates or scream and let go for a couple of hours every week without getting arrested.” “Or cry,” Cantona adds.

There aren’t many players, past or present who understand the unique bond between them and the fans. Cantona though, was certainly one of them. “I must have the freedom to express myself,” Cantona once said. “Without freedom there is no happiness, no joy.”

Whatever it is about the partnership of Loach and Laverty, they always give us charismatic characters and natural dialogue. There are some scenes always prevalent in Loach films: in Land and Freedom, we have the argument over the collectivisation of land. In The Wind That Shakes the Barley, we have the argument over the signing of the Treaty.

In Looking for Eric, we have the argument in the pub between the Manchester United and the FC United ( fans; six Postmen attacking the corporatisation of modern football - questioning the loyalty you can have for a team that it’s impossible to have an affinity with due to the sheer monetary impossibility of attending games, the “Prawn Sandwich Brigade” and owners who see the club as a business acquisition rather than a football club. The scene sums up the film; raw, impassioned and not without a large dose of chuckles too.

Some people have said that ‘Looking for Eric’ is Loach’s most light-hearted film in years and the only real criticism is that the ending breaks from the realism that normally accompanies his work. I don’t think so. Sometimes you have to believe that special things can happen. And if there’s anyone who can inspire something special, it’s that man Cantona.

Workers Solidarity 110 July - August 2009 Edition

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