Modern British Cinema: Themes and Perspectives


23 Mar 2015 15 Dec 2017

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The history and rich heritage of the modern British cinema can be rooted from its rich history and films which were produced in the past and served as an unwavering inspiration to the themes and perspectives which were evident in the British films which were shown today. One of the most common themes existent among the British films of today would most probably be the concept of social realism. This theme, as being present and influential in the production of modern British films, represents the actual happenings in the real lives of the people, together with all the difficulties and predicaments which were present in the people's daily struggle to survival. The stories and the people which were portrayed in the films were reflective of everyday characters and usually are have an economic background belonging to the middle class group in the society. The theme of social realism started to be portrayed in British films in as early as the 1960s with also the emergence of the so-called British New Wave. Some of the films in the past which showed themes of social realism include Look Back in Anger, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Because of the presence of social realism in various literatures in the past, most of these movies were based on written novels and produced plays which showed the same theme. Furthermore, it has been noted that social realism is more than just a genre in modern British cinema, it is considered to be a dominant form of cinema. This theme of social realism is often coupled with political awareness as such has been also noted to be permissive in British cinema. Modern films with the themes of social realism include Trainspotting, My Name is Joe, This is England, and Human Traffic (Strozykowski, 2008)

Moreover, new perspectives in the British cinema is also said to have been focused in masculinity, showing themes which were centered and aptly inspired by the British men in the society, or at least, the crisis in British masculinity. Furthermore, more than the crisis, it is said that what the British cinema actually articulates would be the dilemmas of identification and ideology for modern British men. (Claydon, n.d.)


One of the British films in the modern society would have been Looking for Eric which was show in theaters last year. The central theme which was depicted in the movie Looking for Eric could be aptly described as how a football player was able to run away from the trials and problems which life has confronted him and it also shows how the heroes of footballs can bring for fans. The movie was directed by an English director in the name of Ken Loach while the story was written by Paul Laverty. The main casts of the movie included real-life football fantasy and superstar, Eric Cantona together with Steve Evets. According to the director of the film, the movie was actually intended to show the life of major celebrities as being only as simple and as complicated as everyone' life and the notion that we are stringer as a tem rather than as separate individuals with differing goals and perspectives. The film was also used as an entry in a competition, the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. The movie was considered to be an exceptional addition to the glitz and glamour of the film festival as it showcased the presence of the Manchester United and France footballing legend. The film was shot in the United Kingdom, distributed by Icon Film Distribution and produced by the company owned by Loach which was Sixteen Films. It was said to have an estimated budget of 4 million pounds.


The movie depicts a bitter sweet comedy illustrating the life of a loser postman who was able to receive words of wisdom from Eric Cantona, who is also Eric Cantona in real life, a philosophical football legend who is considered to be the hero of another character in the said movie. The movie is also said to be a significant addition to the list of movies which were football related in terms of the story or the central plot.

The movie was all about a middle-aged postman who was able to find employment at the Manchester sorting office through the character of Eric Bishop. Bishop in the movie was going through a dreadful crisis in life which sprouts other themes which were evident through the course of the film. Bishop was alo looking through and guiding the growth of his grand daughter which makes him make contact with his ex-wife, Lily. The grand daughter is a main reason why he needed to still establish close relationship and contact with Lily despite the fact that the two were already separated after Bishop abandoned her when their first child was born. His son, Ryan, was then hiding a gun in their house which is used by the gangsters which are present in the place. In one of Bishops weakest and most depressing time, he considers the possibility of committing suicide in order to end the adversaries which have been confronting his life. Furthermore, in order to discount the possibility of such occurrence, a meditation session was held inside his room and after which, he had a clearer perspective of things and let go of the possibility of ending his only life and instead went to see the philosophical football legend which happens to be another Eric, in the person of Eric Cantona. His visits to the football star were able to give him enlightenment after Cantona gave him several words of wisdom and inspiration which gave him ideas on why he should go on with his life. Such visits led to an improvement in his relationship with his ex-wife. Bishop also discovered about the hidden gun and he immediately confronted his son after finding it out. When his son was confronted, Ryan did not deny of his involvement with the gangsters in the place. Bishop returned to the gun the rightful group. His sons were said to be making his life more problematic and they are deemed to bring Bishop into an early death with all the problems that the two have caused in Bishop's life. When he returned the gun, he was forced to keep it himself and a series of unfortunate events followed which even included a posting of a humiliating video of him in a video uploading site. The entire family was then arrested and the house was searched in order to find the gun but it was nowhere to be found all over the place. Bishop was given different words of wisdom and advice by Cantona. With a number of fanatics of the Manchester United football team, in an operation which they dubbed as Operation Cantona, Bishop sneaked through the gangster's house to be able to find the gun and threatened that they will also release a humiliating video of the gang just like what they have earlier did to Bishop. Cantona was considered by Bishop to be like a genie who suddenly pops out of the bottle, acted his life coach, and gave him more inspiration and reasons to be able to enjoy and live life despite the predicaments especially with all the trouble that confronted him as being brought about by his children. The movie ended with the scene of a graduation of one of Bishop's children, depicting a happy family and finally enjoying a peaceful life.


With the central characters which assumed the major roles in the movie, it can be said that the film revolved around the lives of two Erics - Bishop and Cantona - who each had their fair share in the flow of the story. The first Eric is the depressed one who has been confronted with numerous challenges in his life, from his children, to his ex-wife, and even to the environment in which he has been living. However, the second Eric was legendary and ghost-like. He was like a genie who provided words of wisom and encouragement to be able to inspire the former Eric in his life amidst all the struggles which confronted him.

Like in any other works of Ken Loach, the movie included a spectacular cast which has been deemed to be perfect in the portrayal of their respective roles in the movie. The meticulous casting process for Looking for Eric is said to be an additional in the bones of the character and also serves as an embellishment in the whole process of completing the movie. In the movie, the most important and central character is not the legendary football player, but the little Eric who found inspiration in the middle of his struggle to survival. Moreover, the humor in the story can be especially seen and illustrated in the scenes where Cantona has been giving the other Eric a series of advises to help him go on with living his life instead of trying to end it because he was confronted with too many troubles. Form this advises, there were presence of self-deprecating humor which included his metaphors. The enigmatic philosophical ramblings of Cantona were depicted in the film without losing the touch of humor to provide more interest in the storyline (Strozykowski, 2009). The presence of social realism in the central theme of the film cannot be also discounted as the main characters and setting of the film revolves around the middle class society and reflects their struggle for survival in the middle of the illustrated political and economic situation.


As what has been mentioned earlier, the movie was directed by Kenneth “Ken” Loach, a native of Warkwirshire. His earliest experiences in the fields of movie and television can be attributed to his membership at his school's experimental theater club. His first experiences in directing were harnessed as he joined ABC television in the year 1961and he then switched to BBC after several years. One of his most notable works in the field of television entertainment would have been The Wednesday Play which he did in collaboration with the skills of Tony Garnett. The said work of the two directors is said to have been a significant evolution and revolution in the field of British drama as such show has spurred political debates. The drama is said to be a socialist as it has been geared towards providing an inspiration to the middle class members of the society to become agents who could be able to potentially revolutionize and inspire the existence of economic change in the British society.

Ken Loach has always been a name surfacing in the Cannes Film Festival as his works have made him one of the favorites in the said award-giving body. During the eyar 2006, the director won the most prestigious award at Cannes, the Palm d'Or for his movie entitled The Wind That Shakes the Barley which is about the troubles in Ireland.

The most successful works of Loach in the field of British entertainment were said to be exploratory of the varying dimensions of the life of human wherein the personal dimensions intersect with the political aspects. His works show the fusion of politics with the lives of ordinary human beings and how such can greatly affect the mode of living. Much of the director's works were aimed towards the criticism of capital targets which included gangsters, exploitative employers, conservative employers, and loan sharks, which have been a common theme in his works. The artistic visual style of Loach as a director is said to be unassuming, illustrating careful narrative construction, and showing performances which are sympathetic making the target audience relate into the situations which were depicted by the motion picture. The political points which Loach tries to emphasize in his works could be seen arising from natural emotions and situations which are shown to be very realistic. The existence of humor in his works cannot be also discounted as such themes make the claims of the film stronger, and at times, can also add sarcasm to the political satires which the film expects to deliver.

Loach has already an experience of almost 40 years in the industry with an estimated works of almost 60 films which included theatrical figures and works which were intended not to be show in cinemas but only in the televisions yet still depictive of the same themes and concepts which were common in the director's works. It has been said that most of his finest works were explicitly political with a tough of humor and powerful emotion inspired by the director's intellectual ideas and major concepts. His works were said to be one way of depicting the nation's unconscious as it illustrates what has been actually happening in the modern society in terms of the political and economic dimension. Despite hindrances in the industry such as financial constraints, fickle artistic trends, and the ebb and flow in politics, Loach remains in his commitment of providing the society with films which are committed to progressive ideals.

The most powerful scene sin the movies which were created by Loach were said to be established in a setting were a large group of film characters were gathered as they discuss and debate over various issues, mostly were political and economical. For instance, in his movie The Big Flame the characters were shown to be having a conversation as they try to organize a strike, in the movie Land Of Freedom there was also a scene which depicts an extended debate in which the characters were fighting about land reform, and the movie Bread and Roses depicted a scene where the janitors were having an argument on whether or not they will be joining an established union. Other works of Ken Loach include the following movies: Poor Cow, Kes, family Life, Black Jack, Looks and Smiles, Fatherland, Hidden Agenda, RiffRaff, Raining Stones, Ladybird Ladybird, Land and Freedom, Carla's Song, My name is Joe, Bread and Roses, The Navigators, Sweet Sixteen, Ae Fond Kiss, Tickets, McLibel,.The Wind That Shakes the Barley, It's a Free World, and Looking For Eric (Robins, n.d.).


Strozykowski, M; Social Realism in British Film; 2008

Claydon, A. E.; New Perspectives on British Cinema: Going Beyond the Crisis in Masculinity

Robins, M; Senses of Cinema: Ken Loach

The Internet Movie Database; Looking for Eric; 2009

The Official Website of Looking for Eric The Movie; 2009


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