Looking for Eric

Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
  Looking for Eric
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

It has been many years since Eric (Steve Evets) and Lily’s (Stephanie Bishop) rocky divorce and he has never gotten over her. His sons and stepsons show him no respect. He is screwing up his job at the post office and his friends plan an intervention. But, Eric has an intervention of his own when he imagines his hero, soccer super star Eric Cantona, has come to help the hapless man cope with life again in “Looking for Eric.”

Ken Loach has come up with an upbeat story about a man who is at his wits end with life. “Looking for Eric” is a wonderful character study of this man, Eric, as it opens with him driving furiously around a roundabout – going the wrong way. The ensuing crash – suicide attempt or just an accident? - puts¬ him in the hospital and his friends and family, including his ex-wife, Lily, come to his side. The story moves from Eric’s sullen, almost suicidal, behavior to his rebirth, thanks to friends, family and Eric Cantona. The imaginary conversations between the two Erics are not static and isolated; they carry on their conversations in full public view, and represent the main character as he gets his life, all of it, back on track.

The cast is a true ensemble as their characters gather to aid their friend. The family and friends and Cantona’s dual interventions is smoothly handled and has you rooting for Eric. You will not be disappointed. I give it B+.

Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) determinedly drives the wrong way around a roundabout until he crashes into an oncoming car.  Was he, as his friend Meatballs (John Henshaw, "Red Riding") suggests, trying to break the Guinness World Book record?  Was it a suicide attempt?  Or has the stress of having to come face to face with the wife he abandoned with a baby thirty years ago got Bishop "Looking for Eric?"

Director Ken Loach ("My Name Is Joe," "Sweet Sixteen") and frequent screenwriting collaborator Paul Laverty ("The Wind That Shakes the Barley") delve into the blue collar dramas they do so well, but this time, a touch of whimsy has been added.  When Bishop's colorful group of friends intervene with a self help exercise, Eric admits that the man whose qualities he most admires is Manchester United football star Eric Cantona and so Cantona appears to offer advice, have a chat, share a joint "Play It Again Sam" style.  "Looking for Eric" is like Loach's "The Full Monty" with all the tweeness extracted.

Laverty's script zig zags like a soccer player on the field, dodging and feinting expectations. Gradually Eric and Lily's (Stephanie Bishop) past is revealed as they awkwardly meet to coordinate babysitting shifts to help their daughter Sam (Lucy-Jo Hudson) out of a temporary jam.  Back at home, Eric has two other boys, Ryan (Gerard Kearns, "Red Riding"), hanging out with the wrong crowd, and Jess (Stefan Gumbs), the younger, sweeter black brother.  It's a nice touch that their maternal parentage is never mentioned, but it's clear that Eric has a heavy load as a single parent.

When Eric's attempts to reconnect with Lily are on the verge of success - she and Sam have agreed to come to a family dinner in his home - Ryan's problems dynamite the plan in a loud, confusing scene brilliantly staged by Loach.  Eric was in an impossible situation and works his way out of it ingeniously.  Cantona's advise to 'always trust your teammates' proves invaluable, as Meatballs and his cronies come through in a scene that has to be seen to be believed.

"Looking for Eric" has been described as 'minor Loach,' and that's just a damned shame.  Loach is treating the same serious subjects he always has with a humorous approach that shows growth, not levity, in what may be his most accessible film to date.

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