Looking for Eric is a blend of comedy, fantasy,
philosophy, and social realism that breaks the record for the most “F”
words ever used in a motion picture. If it wasn't supposed to be a
feel-good comedy that asks you to suspend logic, I would also suggest a
“P” word - preposterous. Directed by the team of Ken Loach and Paul
Laverty that has brought us such serious dramas as Sweet Sixteen, The
Wind that Shakes the Barley, and My Name is Joe, Looking for Eric is
funny in parts, serious in others, full of both joy and sadness, a true
chiaroscuro of life, yet trying to combine gritty social realism with
an absurd comic fantasy does not always work.
In the film's opening, Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) is a 50'ish postal
worker living in a working class section of Manchester England with his
two rebellious stepsons Ryan (Gerard Kearns) and Jess (Stepfan Gumbs).
Close to a nervous breakdown, Eric manages to survive a car crash but
comes home to a house in a total mess and has difficulty in coping with
his stepsons who do not listen to him. His friends at work led by
Meatballs (John Henshaw) try to cheer him up by telling him jokes but
they barely produce a smile. The ever resourceful Meatballs brings all
his friends and co-workers together to lead them in process in which
they are asked to see themselves through the eyes of someone who really
loves them. Done with a minimum of condescension, Loach handles the
activity with respect and makes the proceedings plausible.
When asked to pick the person they most want to take
after, one chooses Nelson Mandela, another Gandhi. Eric chooses Eric
Cantona, a French hero of the Manchester United soccer team of 1990.
Continuing with the theme of self awareness, Cantona, playing himself,
turns up in Eric's vision (presumably as a holographic image) to guide
him toward developing a stronger self image. Eric asks Cantona to
recall the moments on the football field that he most cherished and,
with the postman's exuberant narration, the moments are replayed on
screen to almost magical effect. Asked to describe the highlight of his
career, instead of talking about a goal he scored, Cantona humbly
mentions the time he passed off to a teammate who then scored.
Meanwhile, as Cantona supplies the postman with enough
proverbs to rival the Book of Solomon, his daughter Sam (Lucy-Jo
Hudson) asks him to babysit for her small child while she finishes her
education. This leads Eric to confront having to reunite with his
ex-wife Lily (Stephanie Bishop) who he walked out on 25 years ago when
she was pregnant. Feeling trapped, he turns to Cantona who reminds him
that “We always have more choices than we think,” After having been
talked by his soccer hero through the guilt of abandoning his wife,
Eric and Lily meet after many years and remember their most romantic
moments when he wore blue suede shoes and they danced together.
Unfortunately, Looking for Eric goes off track in the latter part of
the film with a convoluted plot involving his stepson Ryan, local
hoods, a gun planted in his house, police brutality, and all kinds of
high energy mayhem that sends the film into sensory overload. While
Loach and Laverty's message about how life works better when we are
open and include the people that are closest to us in our problems is a
good one, the film eventually becomes so absurd and heavy-handed that
it threatens to destroy the charm it had built up earlier. Looking for
Eric is an entertaining and heartwarming film that has moments of sheer
delight but, as a whole, the ball never quite reaches the net.