Ken Loach’s latest film is the story of Eric Bishop (Steve Evets), a kind and decent man who has made some decisions in life that he truly regrets, and how, with the imagined help of his hero Eric Cantona, he takes the first steps towards righting those decisions.
The film opens with Eric trying to kill himself, and he is truly a pitiable character. He lives with his two step children (their mother having run off), who treat him in much the same manner as one would treat a doormat made of dog shit. We’re introduced to Eric’s football obsessed friends, most of whom feel just a bit sorry for Eric. And then we find out why Eric tried to kill himself – his ex-wife.
Eric’s friends try to find ways to cheer him up, one of which being suggesting that he try to emulate his hero, Eric Cantona. While this fails, it unlocks something in Eric’s brain, because soon, he finds himself being counselled by his hero.
Eric Cantona is excellent, happy to both cheekily acknowledge his god-like status in the minds of fans (“I am not a man, I am Cantona.”) and to show a sliver of what the real man is like. But more than all that, he plays his role with such charm and gusto that it’s a performance impossible not to like.
But the star of the show here is not Eric Cantona, it’s Eric Bishop. The title can be a little misleading because knowing, as we do, that Eric Cantona is in the film, we assume that he is the titular Eric, but I don’t think he is. The Eric that is being sought is the old Eric Bishop, back when he still had his first wife Lilly in his life. Back before the pressure of a new marriage pushed him away from the love of his life; a woman he loves so much, even to this day, that the very sight of her, that visual reminder of all he had lost, was enough to drive him to attempt suicide.
Then there is the excellent plotline of Eric’s stepson Ryan (Gerard Kearns) getting caught up with a gangster, and the simply extraordinary steps that Eric takes to save someone who treats him like a nothing. It is here that Eric gets a chance to show his true colours, how he stands up to the gangster even though he knows he has no hope of winning.
What is most rewarding about the film is that, although Cantona is Eric’s counsellor and guide that sets his life back on course, the film never pretends that Cantona is anything other than a figment of Eric’s imagination. Eric wasn’t saved, he saved himself. It is this, coupled with the beautifully touching moments between Eric and Lilly that make this, to my mind, one of the most touching and heart-warming stories ever put to film.
A beautiful, touching, heart-warming, uplifting and occasionally hilarious film that gives us insight into the life of a man who thinks he’s hit bottom. Wonderful. Simply wonderful. A+.