There can be few more surreal moments than Eric Cantona blasting out La Marseillaise on a trumpet high up on a block of flats in Manchester to have appeared in a Ken Loach film. Loach is renowned as a realist filmmaker so to dramatise a figment of Eric’s (beautifully played by Steve Evets) imagination with Cantona (‘I am not a man, I am Cantona’) himself is surprising. What’s not surprising is that Loach, and script writer Paul Laverty, pull it off. If the visual style and downtrodden milieux is recognisable, as is the working class solidarity of Eric’s workmates, then the feelgood ending is also unusual for Loach.
Cantona, of course, is Cantona; he acts as he did in Elizabeth (UK, 1998) but here it doesn’t matter as he is playing himself. There are plenty of clips of his genius on the pitch and he was one of those players that you had to admire even if he was playing for Man Utd.
The Sight & Sound reviewer complains that the sequence excoriating Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of Man U (by borrowing money then loading the debt on to the club thereby, in effect, buying it for nothing) is didactic. So what!? These things need to be said; there are many fans who don’t realise that football has been hijacked by money men.