When your footballing hero turns up unannounced in your bedroom, it’s time to check what you’re smoking. But postman Eric Bishop (Evets) knows exactly what he’s smoking, even if he didn’t expect Eric Cantona to start serving up philosophical nuggets and sorting out his life for him.
Having walked out on his first love Lily (Bishop) some 20 years earlier and now lumbered with two wayward step-sons from his second failed marriage, Eric is struggling to say the least. And when his daughter asks him to help look after his grand-daughter he hesitates because it means facing Lily, something he just can’t do. But with the help of jovial bookworm and fellow postie Meatballs (Henshaw) and King Eric, he begins to get his life back on track.
The starting point for Looking For Eric came several years ago when Eric Cantona got in touch with Ken Loach with an idea about doing a film investigating the relationship he had, and to an extent still has, with the Manchester United fans who adulated him for five years in the mid-1990s. After various delays and false starts, the film was first show at the Cannes Film Festival to great critical acclaim and no wonder. Paul Laverty’s script is witty and wise, while veteran director Loach paints a sometimes painfully realistic picture of Manchester life, with all its grimy, seedy elements juxtaposed with the down to earth and loving characters in Eric’s world.
Because for all the references to football – and there are enough clips of Le Roi in his pomp to satisfy the die-hard fans – this is a film about redemption and friendship. Yes, life can be tough and hard to cope with sometimes but equally, things can turn around just as quickly if you’re willing to try. Or as Cantona puts it, “He who is afraid to throw the dice, will never throw a six.” The Frenchman sends himself up beautifully and shows that his subtle touches aren’t limited to the fooball pitch. Evets meanwhile is a revelation, combining nervous energy, love, barely concealed frustration and regret superbly. By turns moving, surreal and utterly hilarious, Looking For Eric is a wonderful piece of filmmaking and deserves your attention whether you have an interest in football or not.