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Cannes 2009: Looking For Eric

Feelgood factor. Magic realism. A real-life sporting superstar playing himself…

Ken Loach’s latest, Looking For Eric, is worlds apart from his last Cannes competitor, Irish history lesson The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006).

That film bagged the coveted Palme d’or – a feat the Brit-director is unlikely to repeat with this relatively lighter (in every sense) yarn.

On the other hand, it’s likely to be one of the biggest audience-pullers of Loach’s career.

It’s a tale of two Erics, the main one being a Mancunian postie played with bags of empathy by Steve Evets.

First seen deliberately driving the wrong way on a roundabout, Eric Bishop is at an all-time low, haunted by past mistakes and bedevilled by stepsons who leave stolen cement mixers in the front yard.

His closest confidant is a poster of Eric Cantona in his Man U prime. During one spliff-assisted heart-to-paper chat, King Eric suddenly appears in the flesh, dispensing life advice, off-the-wall (ahem) proverbs and a few dance moves.

A quirky, cuddly buddy-com? Not entirely. There’s a more typically Loachian subplot (involving a dodgy handgun) where it seems any choice the protagonists make will lead to ruin (a la My Name Is Joe).

For a stretch, it’s as serious as hell; but then the mood-o-meter swings back to comedy for an inventive but not overly credible resolution.

Fans may expect something a little less pat and ingratiating from Loach – but on its own terms LFE is a tender-hearted, earthy-humoured ode to leaning on your mates when the chips are down.

There were frequent cheers and claps from the Cannes crowd – who saved their loudest applause for a classic Cantona moment over the end credits.