Miami International Film Festival: Review of Ken Loach's Looking for Eric

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Eric (Steve Evets) was once a spry young man who met the love of his life at a dance competition. He's now a graying, slouching postman, slowly losing his mind and stuck caring for two teenage sons. He's so miserable that his fellow postmen stage a little self-help visualization session. It triggers Eric, a rabid Manchester United soccer fan, to begin hallucinating about Eric Cantona, a British superstar footballer who plays himself in this film.

In imaginary rendezvous with his hero, Eric regains his zest for life and pursues the woman he deserted. He also takes better care of himself and his two sons -- who have become amateur gangsters; one son goes as far as pistol-whipping Eric in the head. But as he regains his confidence, he enlists the help of friends to sever his sons' gangster ties in a scene that can be described as a Guy Debord-situationist-style flash mob of a hundred mask-wearing, club-wielding Manchester United fans.

Looking for Eric is the creation of Ken Loach, one of the UK's most important directors, whose realist films have tackled unsexy subjects such as labor rights and homelessness. Loach's 2006 The Wind That Shakes the Barley won the Palme d'Or for its gritty portrayal of the Irish War of Independence. And while this Looking for Eric studies working-class Britain's gun-loving youth, it's an unexpected comedy in Loach's downbeat oeuvre. The comradery between "mates" is jovial, while Cantona is an unlikely life coach.

The film, which opens the festival, was nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes and won a British Independent Film Award. In it, Loach is able to turn both the overdone British heist movie and soccer hooligan culture on their heads through a hilarious romp in which a regular guy survives hitting rock bottom and begins living again.

March 5th at 7 p.m., Gusman Center 174 E. Flagler St., 305-374-2444

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