Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Loach's World

It’s a Free World...
Directed by Ken Loach
Screenplay by Paul Laverty
Starring Kierston Wareing, Joe Siffleet, Leslaw Zurek, Juliet Ellis

An IFC Films Release
February 29–March 6, 2008
BAM Rose Cinemas

Wareing in It's a Free World...
Ken Loach has been concerned with working-class strife and social underdogs since his career began (in the 1960s!) with devastating portraits of quotidian British lives in Cathy Come Home, Kes, and Poor Cow. His latest film, It’s a Free World.... tackles another hard-hitting, timely subject that’s typical of Loach, showing how unscrupulous people use the swelling Eastern European immigrant population in large Western European cities to fill the ranks of cheap labor in an increasingly global environment.

Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty have created a plucky, feisty protagonist Angie (played with authentic bluntness by Kierston Wareing), who starts her own employment agency in London to cater to Polish newcomers looking for work. But Angie is no idealized saint; this is a woman who thinks nothing of taking more than her share to line her pockets in what, after all, is a difficult place for her to survive as well.

The director and screenwriter have shaped It’s a Free World... in terms of Angie’s personal odyssey as a single mother who balances raising her teenage son Jamie (Joe Siffleet) with being both an aid to and exploiter of the newly arrived immigrants. Along with her flatmate, Rose (Juliet Ellis), Angie skims profits off the top of the immigrants' earnings. She does pretty well until one unhappy segment of the Polish population discovers the fraud and moves to take revenge.

Until that unconvincing incident, which is the film’s dramatic climax of sorts, It's a Free World... is mainly free of sentimentality and melodrama. If not as potent as the best Loach-Laverty collaborations (My Name Is Joe, Sweet Sixteen, and their devastating reenactment of the Irish troubles in the 1920s, The Wind That Shakes the Barley), the new film has a powerful shock of recognition in its thesis that people everywhere are losing ground.

The final sequence is among Loach’s most illuminating creations, as Angie enterprisingly continues working both sides of the system, helping the immigrants even as she makes money off of them. It may be a free world, Loach suggests, but it's a complex one as well.

originally posted on timessquare.com

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