Facts I know about Cantona: he’s French, has hefty eyebrows, used to wear his collar up and once kicked someone in the face. Oh and he played football for some team or other. As you can see, I know lots. But it seems not quite enough to truly appreciate Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric. With a greater knowledge about the man I’d probably have found more hilarity from the film, but really my head is so full up with knowledge already about more useful and interesting things, ex-footballers just don’t warrant deleting any of the info to make more brain space.
Anyway, in light of this my enjoyment of this film may have been hampered a little, but not enough to give an “I’m Not There” effect (described as unbaked cake smeared on the wall in Jan 08). Eric (not Cantona) is a postman, struggling with two divorces and two horrible step-sons to look after. His supportive mates try to help lift his spirits, but it turns out a hallucinated Cantona, Eric’s idol, is the best answer to his problems. Or a handy way for Eric to vocalise his back-story, without resorting to him just spouting monologues all the time. Still, it’s fun to see a gruff Cantona playing a hallucinated version of himself, spouting sayings (something I’ve since learnt was his speciality) and saying things in such a thick accent that it’s sometimes too difficult to follow.
Though the trailer suggests this to be a quirky romp with uplifting music from the Coral and lots of fat northern men chuckling away, the film itself is a tad grittier than expected. This is Ken Loach, after all, the chap who brought laugh-a-minute Kes to the screens. Set in Salford, a known shit-hole, Eric’s rough stepsons provide enough drama to muddy the lighter tone of Cantona’s visits and give the film a bit of weight. Steve Evets’ Eric has enough humanity to make you want him to succeed, even if his constant swearing feels slightly forced and unnatural for such a nice chap.
There’s a nice contrast between Eric’s harsh reality and his amusing relationship with Cantona, but a neat and slightly unbelievable finish leaves the film more namby pamby than something truly special. An interesting idea nicely played out, perhaps with a little more weight behind it the points could have climbed higher. As such, Looking for Eric finds itself at a CF1. Worth the effort to look at.