Looking for Eric is a film that will speak to anyone who lives a typical life and yet the story isn’t boring. In fact, it’s quite exciting in a mundane sort of way. The film is about a person crushed under circumstance and tortured by a past mistake. It’s about overcoming self-doubt and discovering self-esteem. It’s about redemption. Looking for Eric is everything that everyone can relate to. Viewers will be pleased to know that excellent writing and a strong cast help to keep audiences delighted until the very end.
Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) has lived a series of mistakes and they’re catching up to him in his later years. His second wife has left him, leaving behind her two teenage sons from two different relationships in Eric’s care. Unfortunately, the boys are unruly and disrespectful and Eric feels like a stranger in his own home. The boys also bring a bit of danger into the household when Eric’s oldest son, Ryan (Gerard Kearns), begins socializing with the local thug. For Eric’s part, he can’t help but trace his problems back to the single biggest mistake he made in his past – leaving his first wife and love of his life Lily (Stephanie Bishop). The only solace Eric seems to have is when he’s passing time with his mates at the post office or watching the game. When circumstances force Eric to confront Lily, he has a panic attack and begins to contemplate suicide. Luckily for Eric, he’s a diehard Manchester United fan and it’s his admiration for football legend Eric Cantona mixed with strong weed that has Eric seeing and speaking to Cantona. Together they rebuild Eric’s life, discovering an inner strength Eric never knew he had.
Almost every aspect of Looking for Eric just works. Viewers couldn’t ask for a stronger cast. Steve Evets as Eric is truly sympathetic. Life has gotten the better of him. So when he asks the poster of Eric Cantona if he’s ever thought about killing himself, audiences will feel the gravity of that question. Furthermore, Evets flexes his range throughout as Eric slowly gains self-confidence, illustrating his character arc plainly and starkly. Stephanie Bishop as Lily makes the most of her limited time on screen with powerful and natural performances. It’s a treat to see the controlled rage of 30 years on her face in one scene and then a softer, understanding side in the next. Eric Cantona is also fun to watch, though his role as a kind of mentor leaves his performance a bit one-dimensional, but that’s hardly a criticism.
The writing is one of the best aspects of the film and manages to balance the three main plots – Eric’s taking control of his life, the rekindling of Eric’s relationship with Lily, and the threat of the local thug – without diminishing any of them. The plots move effortlessly and organically through each other except when they’re not meant to, creating conflict. Of course, most audiences will probably not realize the cinematic magic happening, because the writing never overtly draws attention to itself. The only real criticism would be that the resolution of the climax is a bit silly, but – given the context of the film – still works.
American audiences may have a small problem understanding a few of the accents, which is unfortunate since all of the characters seem to say something interesting every time they speak. One unintelligible scene happens early on with Eric’s coworkers telling him jokes to brighten his spirits. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to understand the jokes unless you’re familiar with the accents. Thankfully, those scenes are few and far between and will hardly be missed when the rest of the story is so engaging.
Overall, what will ultimately attract viewers to Looking for Eric is how representative the film is of ordinary lives. The message is positive. Exciting changes can come to even the most mundane routines. Older people are not as feeble as they seem. Finally, it’s never too late to make amends and do the right thing. In this day and age of cynicism and unaccountability, it’s refreshing to find a film celebrate the can-do spirit of the individual.