Looking For Eric Review: Men United
Gritty social realism, mental breakdown and Eric Cantona – not three ingredients that you’d expect to see combined in a film, but in Looking For Eric the mixture makes a genuinely touching, funny and heartfelt drama.
Eric Bishop is a Mancunian postie with two ex-wives under his belt. He is struggling to hold his life together while living with two stepsons who don’t respect him. One of them is getting involved with the local gangster psycho and it seems like things are going from bad to worse.
In his despair, Eric turns to the faithful stash of cannabis that he knows his son keeps under the floorboards, but instead of the calm placidity he is expecting, his footballing idol Eric Cantona appears to offer some timely advice.
What follows is weird, funny and full of the famous Cantona philosophising we’re all familiar with (“I am not a man. I am Cantona”). I suppose it’s better than hallucinating you’re a giant strawberry and trying to eat yourself.
Only Eric can see Cantona, so he appears like a French, football-playing Al from Quantum Leap (except without the glowing white door to announce his arrival).
As Eric’s situation worsens, Cantona appears more often, dispensing advice and suggesting increasingly strange schemes for Eric to get his life back on track, until the inevitable confrontation between Eric and the gang of thugs who have been harassing his sons.
Steve Evets puts in a wonderful performance as Eric, evoking the frustrated pain of a man struggling to get by, as well as a childlike eagerness for football and for his hero. His face lights up every time he’s discussing the sport and it’s clear that despite the fractured mess of his life, this is something he can rejoice in and be proud of.
It’s hard not to be carried away by this tide of enthusiasm and this offers some insight into the psyche of a football fan, which is intriguing even if you’re not a fan of the beautiful game.
Cantona is also pretty good. It’s often hard to tell if he’s playing an exaggerated version of himself or simply just being himself but there’s no doubting his presence on screen. It’d be nice to see him in more dramatic roles in the future; he does have excellent comedy timing. He can’t do any worse than Vinnie Jones anyway.
The surreal inflection of the whimsical Cantona adds a nice offbeat tone to Loach’s trademark social commentary which can sometimes be a little too overwhelming.
It’s a surprising leap of faith to blend the two together, but as Cantona says, “If you’re afraid to throw the dice, you’ll never roll a six.”