Loach scores again with ‘Looking for Eric’ 

An emotionally derailed postman regains his grip with a little help from friends both real and imaginary in “Looking for Eric,” British realist filmmaker Ken Loach’s dip into comic fantasyland.

Benefiting from Loach’s storytelling skills and trademark humanism, the film is serious and whimsical, an amiable mix of goofy scenarios and social heft. Loach, whose filmography includes “Kes,” “Riff-Raff” and “My Name Is Joe,” makes movies about working-class realities, little-guy struggles, personal demons and romantic connection, characterized by a down-to-earth style and, despite his sentimental stripe, an inability to make Hollywood-style goo.

Working from a screenplay by longtime collaborator Paul Laverty, he proceeds similarly but lightly here, delivering a comedy that suggests one of Woody Allen’s supernatural romps or a “Full Monty”-like rejuvenation story while reflecting his own social and political concerns.

Eric (Steve Evets), a depressed, divorced, middle-aged postman, is plagued by panic attacks, disrespected by his teenage stepsons (Gerard Kearns, Stephan Gumbs) and perpetually distressed over having abandoned first wife Lily (Stephanie Bishop) 20-plus years ago.

Coping through his love of soccer, he idolizes Manchester United star Eric Cantona. One night, smoking weed, he begins receiving hallucinatory visits from the footballer.

Played by the French-accented athlete himself, the wine-sipping, advice-dispensing (“Always trust your teammates”) illusional Cantona becomes Eric’s trainer and mentor. He helps Eric both reconnect with Lily and deal with the hoodlum (Steve Marsh) with whom his older stepson is dangerously associating.

As he shifts from a love story to a paranormal comedy to a crime drama to a bully-comeuppance farce featuring a madcap postal brigade, Loach may have you wondering if he’s been smoking the stuff his hero pilfered from the stepkids. And although the components eventually congeal, the film doesn’t have the emotional power of Loach’s more serious, tonally consistent fare.

But piffle this isn’t. In Loach’s hands, even standard romantic or revenge motivations aren’t recipe-book gunk, and the more novel material, such as a postman self-esteem group led by a character called Meatballs (John Henshaw), sparkles. Shaded by its protagonist’s depression and brightened by engagingly naturalistic moments of workplace banter and pub camaraderie, this is a small and old-fashioned, but filling and relevant film about how friends, coworkers and sports heroes can provide a buzz and a boost.

MOVIE REVIEW

Looking for Eric

Three stars

Starring Steve Evets, Eric Cantona, Stephanie Bishop, John Henshaw
Written by Paul Laverty
Directed by Ken Loach
Not rated
Running time 1 hour 57 minutes

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