Of the world’s many Eric Cantona fans—hear us out if you’re already mystified—certain things can be said. These people are followers of that weird kicking sport so popular elsewhere, soccer. Also, they have a particular allegiance to the storied football club Manchester United, where “King Eric” lifted his team to an untouchable perch through much of the 1990s. Mainly, they look upon the retired athlete and occasional actor as a walking god, sort of like Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali.
But for the rest of us, the British-made Looking for Eric poses a small problem, if not exactly a deal-breaker. Cantona shows up, without any kind of computerized flourish, in the bedroom—and head space—of a suicidal postal worker, also named Eric (Evets, a latter-day bassist for the Fall). The well-meaning visitor might as well be the UPS guy: “Take a risk,” he gruffly tells our falling-apart hero, who, inspired, attempts a reunion with his ex-wife (Bishop), and shrugs off years of pain. It’s sweet, with lots of carpe diem talk, but it’ll probably help if you have sports posters on your wall (and can translate a thick Mancunian accent).
The esteemed director, Ken Loach, isn’t really a fantasist—and it shows. Indeed, his no-shite social realism has made him a national treasure for decades. Looking for Eric, though buoyed by heartfelt performances, should be viewed the way Good Will Hunting is by Gus Van Sant appreciators. Neither movie can fairly be called bad, but both are giant steps toward a mainstream that blurs artistic distinction. Gangsters, a missing gun and a heroic squad of friends are the endgame of a film that shoots wide for the middle.—Joshua Rothkopf
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