How could football philosophy morph itself into alleviating the travails of an ageing postman's life, and influence him to asses and take control of a seriously messed-up household and set straight things for once and for good in his life? The answer, to Eric Bishop lies only in one name: Eric Cantona. The king of Manchester football. Eric, the champion from France who infused pride into the most famous football team in the world. Football and relationships work alike, in Cantona's line of vision. And when it does, even a well of despair could sound like fun.
I'm neither an avid follower of league football, nor am I familiar with this football legend known fanatically as simply "Eric". But the innumerable scenes of spectacular goals (and when I say spectacular, I mean REALLY spectacular) certainly would remove all doubts that this simple, honest man is one of football’s greatest legends. Eric Cantona acts himself in the movie with the same gust, passion and arrogance he spews on field while he is at his footballing best.
Eric, our non-footballing protagonist (Steve Evets) is an emotionally withdrawn person. He is a local post-man in Manchester, living with his rebellious step-sons who prefer to remain ensconced in their own, crime-filled, drugged out world. They bring home stuff nicked from somewhere, probably even confiscated by the local crime-boss. Their indifferent attitude towards Eric leave him emotionally dead and withdrawn, so much that even his friends in the post-office despair at his eroded nature, and try various methods to bring some humor into his life. One of them is a hilarious self-hypnosis session they hold when Eric invites them home. He still loves Lily, a beautiful woman he left thirty years ago, as soon as he found that he was a father, when his own father drove him crazy with fear, making him doubt his own parental responsibilities. He prefers to be withdrawn from his wife, even if she's willing for forgive and forget what he's done, and behave like matured people, at least for the sake of their daughter and granddaughter. How is he going to piece all of this together and turn all of this into bringing some happiness into his life?
The answer appears to him one evening as he is smoking weed that he nicks from under the floorboards of his son's bedroom. Eric Cantona comes into his life, as a filament of his imagination. They talk and talk, talk leads to more talk.. And slowly, Eric becomes his life-coach. It might sound contrived that a person can advise himself through something that he himself hallucinates, but what Ken Loach implies here is its not Eric's philosophy which brings him that rush of blood to the head. It's the raw spirit of football which works wonders. Football is the one thing that people passionately hold onto, during these times of political indifferences and cultural difference-of-opinions. For a film about a legendary and iconic footballer it doesn't ram football down the throats of the non-fans. What the film does do is bring up just how important football is for many people, the way it can unite and connect them in a way that has otherwise disappeared in Britain.
Ken Loach brings to you another little gem from the absurdities of the ordinary. He was rewarded with his ninth Golden Palm nomination during the Cannes Film Festival, 2009