Apple ran the trailer for Ken Loach’s light comedy-drama back on the 15th, but I was asleep at the switch. It’s probably just as well because I have to say the trailer does the film a disservice in the way it oversells the feelgoodery of it all. The swelling affirmation offered by the trailer is designed to appeal to a wider audience, but Looking for Eric is a much subtler film than that. Yes, as the copy says, it’s a life affirming crowd-pleaser, but Loach’s realism and his feel for the film’s underclass milieu grounds it in a way that keeps it from becoming too saccharine. Plus I’m pretty sure that song is nowhere to be heard in the actual movie.
Looking For Eric, which deservedly received positive notices upon its Cannes 2009 debut, is something of a change of pace for Loach. Its surface story of a working class Englishman whose life seems to be grinding to a halt in the years following the breakup of his marriage is right up Loach’s dramatic alley, but when the man turns to pot-fueled fantasies of former Manchester United football Eric Cantona for advice and inspiration, the film turns into an odd yet humorous slice of warm magical realism with heavier drama always lurking on the periphery.
Great performances, especially by Steve Evets in the lead, and a charming turn by the real Eric Cantona, help Loach walk the fine line between drama and comedy and between realism and uplift. Some of the best scenes involve Evets simply interacting with his mates.
Looking for Eric opens May 14 in theaters and on IFC VOD May 19.