Woody invoked Bogart in Play It Again, Sam. Christian summoned Elvis in True Romance…
For Steve Evets’ crumpled postman Eric, it’s Man Utd’s ’90s goal-machine Eric Cantona who materialises as an imaginary life coach, steering the depressed parcel-pusher out of a funk.
In contrast to his hero, postman Eric is small, hunched and unstriking. He struggles to control his teenage stepsons and skulks around in an isolated perma-sulk, pining for ex-wife Lily and gazing at his life-size Cantona poster...
And then the freshly grizzled Cantona of today steps off Eric’s wall and into his smoke-fogged bedroom, stirring him to take control of himself and his life. For the first hour, Loach deftly mines fresh spice from familiar territory (unchannelled working-class rage, service-industry drudgery, male camaraderie).
Evets is pained but plucky, while Cantona is wonderful – watchful, understated, blazing with charisma, smirking at the odd selfparodic aside (“I am not a man. I am Cantona!”).
Loach even finds time to offer a sneaky political elbow-jab at the middle-class gentrification of football. But then he seems to lose nerve, diverting a funny and likeable character study down a much darker alley, with implausible results.
Shame to see one of our least compromising directors drawing inspiration from an equally uncompromising star – but then fluffing the whole thing with a flabby, feelgood… compromise.
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