Tuesday, 8 December 2009

It's A Free World, Ken Loach, UK/ Germany/ Italy/ Spain/ Poland, 2007

It's A Free World is a flawed, yet brilliant and highly relevant film. Flawed, because its topic - the exploitation of illegal eastern European by profiteers in a western country, in this case the UK - is too big to be dealt with in just 90 minutes, and also because coming from Loach, one would have expected It's A Free World to be told in a less conventional, less genre-conform, fashion. And yet, even though Loach packed rather a lot into his film, taken as a social drama cum crime story It's A Free World nevertheless works, because Loach's film is an exercise in taut, dense storytelling.

What also works in the film's favour are the strong performances by the two leading actresses, Juliet Ellis, playing Rose, and Kierston Wareing, playing Angie. Although in business together with an employment agency at the film's beginning, they gradually drift apart over the course of the film as Rose is more and more put off by Angie's increasingly ruthless methods when it comes to taking advantage of the desperate situation of immigrants trying to survive.

Loach's intention is to give a stark, realistic portrayal of an every-day European reality which, more often than not, is swept under the carpet. His films are usually set in a working class background, and Loach is known to always takes the side of the underdog. Dito in It's A Free World: while Rose and Angie are both personifying two sides of the same coin, Loach leaves no doubt about whose side he's on. And in one of the film's key scenes, Loach brings his message across in the guise of Anglie's father - a what you might call old-fashioned, old school member of the working class with a conscience - who gives his daughter a piece of his mind, mincing no words about today's society which, completely corrupted by greed, stops at nothing.

Unsurprisingly then, the ending of It's A Free World is poignantly - realistic?, cynical? - but definitely chilling, and one that's not for cheerful, optimistic Polyannas.

It's A Free World is out on DVD and is highly recommended!