Ken Loach
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7.4 Sweet Sixteen (2002)
7.2 Kes (1969)
7.1 The Angels' Share (2012)
7.1 Sorry We Missed You (2019)
7.0 The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006)
6.9 Riff-Raff (1991)
6.6 Raining Stones (1993)
6.8 Days of Hope (1975)
6.8 Cathy Come Home (1966)
6.8 Looks and Smiles (1981)
6.8 The Wind That Shakes The Barley
6.8 Poor Cow (1967)
6.8 I Daniel Blake (2016)
6.6 Hidden Agenda (1990)
6.6 My Name Is Joe (1998)
6.5 Family Life (1972)
6.5 Looking for Eric
6.5 Jimmy's Hall
6.5 It's a Free World
6.5 Bread And Roses
6.4 Black Jack (1979)
6.4 Land and Freedom (1995)
6.0 A Fond Kiss
6.0 Ladybird Ladybird (1994)
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A committed socialist, Kenneth Loach worked on documentaries, theatre productions and television films, notably Jeremy Sandford's bleak and touching television play Cathy Come Home (1966). The play is verbose as one would expect but it is also a visual fresco of the slums of England, with the camera jumping from one person to another, making us feel uncomfortable in such overcrowded neighborhoods, a symphony of voices and lives delivered in a documentarian style. The two protagonists blend in. They don't stand out, they are just two of them. Their descent into hell is steady and implacable, with no end in sight. The narrating voice is Cathy, a girl who leaves her family's covercrowded apartment and hitchhikes to the big city. She finds a job and meets Reg. They go out on dates and get married. Reg's family is also living in an overcrowded apartment, and the family decides to lock grandfather in a nursing home, unable to take care of him, and listens tearful as the arrangements are being made. Cathy and Reg are briefly happy but then she gets pregnant and he gets injured driving a lorry and loses his job. They are both unemployed and can't afford their rent, and in any case their condominium does not allow children. They have little savings and can't find a place they can afford. A voiceover informs us of the housing crisis in England. Cathy and Reg decide to move in with Reg's mother in an overcrowded tenement. Scenes of life in the tenement mix with dialogues between Cathy and Reg's mother, initially friendly but soon more and more hostile. Inevitably the couple has to move out again. They move in another poor and overcrowded neighborhood. Reg finds another job but Cathy gets pregnant twice more. Their kind landlady lets them stay even if they can't pay rent but then she suddenly dies and the heir, her nephew, wants them to pay or move out. A court rejects their appeal and confirms the eviction. Cathy and Reg look in vain for an affordable place that allows children. The housing experts explain that there are long queues of people waiting for a home. An officer from the public health department comes to tell them that they are breaking the law for some other regulations and is happy to hear that they are being evicted so he doesn't have to evict them himself. Eventually the bailiffs come and physically push them out of the apartment in front of a curious crowd. They have no choice but to an improvised camp of trailers where squatters live like gypsies. Reg and Cathy get to like the environment. The residents of the neighborhood organize to expel them. One evening as Reg is out drinking with friends the locals attack the camp with stones and fire bombs. We hear the harrowing testimony of a six-year-old about how her siblings got burned in the fire. Reg and Cathy have to move the trailer but the law forbids parking in the streets, so the police constantly come to make them move it. This becomes unbearable. Sometimes Reg can't find the trailer when he comes home from work. They move to a filthy dilapidated building that looks like it was just bombed. They are found and kicked out also of that place. The city government finally grants Cathy a place in a building originally meant for elderly homeless people but husbands are not allowed because they tend to cause damage; and the maximum period of time is three months. Several voiceovers inform us that all sorts of workers have become homeless. Reg finds a way to sneak into the building at night and makes love to a tearful Cathy. Cathy is warned by other residents that one can catch all sort of diseases there. Cathy decides to leave her older boy, Sean, with Reg's mother so he doesn't have to suffer in the homeless shelter. Reg comes to visit and they discuss their money situation: they can barely survive and feed the children, and Reg only has money to eat breakfasts. The three months go by and the warden summons Cathy. He grants her an extra month in the shelter but in another section, whose facilities are much worse: all families live in one big room divided in cubicles. Cathy encourages Reg to migrate to another city and seek employment and lodging there. While Reg is away, she gets into a verbal fight with a female attendant who blames the mother when one of the babies dies. When a newspaper publishes a scathing article on the shelter, the warden suspects that Cathy is the source and she gets evicted. She looks in vain for a room: nobody wants a mother with two children. The authorities deem her incapable of taking care of her children. She hides in a train station with them but the social workers find her and take the children away. Cathy remains alone in the station as night falls.

Poor Cow (1967) began his exploration of the working class, as a late practitioner of "free cinema".

Una giovane operaia vive nella periferia di Londra con il figlio e il marito poco di buono. Quando il marito viene arrestato per furto comincia una serie di esperienze che la demoliscono poco a poco, finchè si rassegna a vivere di solo istinto.

More than anything else Kes (1970), adapted from Barry Hines' novel "A Kestrel for a Knave", feels like an indictment of an educational system that fails to create human beings. It merged his pessimistic realism with a Victorian theme (the lonely victimized child) updated to the society of the 1960s.

Neglected by his mother, Billy spends most of the time at home with his much older brother Jud, who is already at work in the mine of the town (like almost everybody else there). They sleep in the same bed but they are hardly friends. At school Billy doesn't do well, bullied by the other children. He works a few hours in a general store but despises the owner. One day he takes a walk in the woods and is mesmerized by a hawk. He immediately wants to read a book on falconery, but the local library cannot lend him the book if his parents don't sign up for him. Billy walks into a nearby bookshop and steals the book. When his brother comes home drunk and falls asleep, Billy insults him in his face until the man wakes up. Back in the woods, Billy climbs a steep wall to capture the hawk in its nest. He names it Kes and starts training the bird according to the bird. At school a ridiculously dictatorial teacher organizes a football game during which he finds time to repeatedly humiliate Billy (and a few other children). A harrowing scene shows Jud and the other miners going down into the mine (Billy's predestined future) while at school the children sing a heavenly song. One teacher regularly canes the boys, even the ones who haven't done anything wrong. But finally one teacher does something for Billy: he encourages the child to explain to the whole class how he captured and trained the hawk. The children are mesmerized and no longer regard Billy as a retard. Later he gets into a fight with a bigger child. The same teacher stops them and reproaches the bigger one for bullying smaller children, and then visits Billy at the field near home to see how the child plays with the bird. Jud gives Billy money to bet on horses but Billy spends it for the hawk. It turns out that the horses win and Jud is furious. Billy hides while Jud roams the school furious looking for his little brother. Billy has to show up at a meeting with a social assistant that advises children on jobs. Billy hardly listens and shows no interest in jobs. The social assistant advises him to take up a manual job. Billy runs out and rushes to see his bird, only to find out that Jud has killed Kes in revenge for what Billy did to him. Billy buries the bird.

Family Life (1972) adds a new tool to his toolbox: psychoanalysis.

E' la storia della progressiva demolizione psichica di una ragazzina schizofrenica da parte della famiglia e della comunità, un impietoso atto di accusa contro le istituzioni. La ragazza è troppo mite per controbattere alla arcigna genitrice; sfoga la propria infelicità nell'amore e rimane in cinta; la obbligano ad abortire e dal trauma non si riprenderà più, anche per merito di psichiatri incompetenti.

Days of Hope (1975) was a TV epic in four parts about post-war life.

Black Jack (1979), his first period film, adapted from Leon Garfield's novel (1968), delves in the squallor of 18th century London.

Gamekeeper (1980) is adapted from a Barry Hines novel.

A Question of Leadership (1981)

Looks and Smiles (1981), set in the violent, sordid, industrial suburbs, of the 1970s, examimes the struggles of young graduates. The film unfolds slowly, through a series of rather unremarkable events, focusing more on environments than on characters. The conversation is as plain as it gets (as usual, in a heavily-accented English slang). The acting, however, is impeccable.

Unemployment is record high in the industrial town. Mick is a young man with a passion for motorcycles who is looking in vain for jobs in a depressed economy. Mick dreams of becoming a motorcycle mechanic. Given the desperate situation his friend Alan decides to join the army. One night in a disco they meet Karen, who works in a shoestore, before getting into a brawl with two other kids and being kicked out of the club. The following day Mick visits Karen at her store and asks her for a date. They walk around and would like to watch a movie, but Mick doesn't have the money and Karen has to pay the ticket for him. Inside the theater Karen recognizes her divorced mother, kissing passionately her boyfriend, and walks out disgusted. He walks her home and they kiss. At home Karen is scolded by her mother for staying out so late but Karen, in turn, confronts her mother about her sex life. Mick takes Karen to a football game on a very hot day. She doesn't feel well and they have to walk out just when Mick's team scores a goal. Upset by his selfishness, she breaks up with him. Broke as usual, one day the kids steal a car. They had to a club where a rock'n'roll band is performing and see Karen with friends. The pair gets into another fight. The following day Mick has an important job interview and he shows up with a black eye. He doesn't get the job. Angry and disillusioned, he joins Alan for another criminal adventure: they break into a bar after hours and, not finding money in the register, they steal all the cigarettes they can find. It is time to make peace with Karen, but, sick with the flue, she is not to be found at the store. Undeterred, Mick rides his motorcycle to her place. She welcomes him in her bed but her mother catches them before they can have sex. To make matters worse her mother's boyfriend is with her and tries to have a conversation with her. The argument escalates and Karen breaks down in tears. She collects a few things and decides to move in with her father. After stopping at a restaurant Mick and Karen reach the multi-family house where her father lives. He is out working the night shift, but her girlfriend is in, and Karen learns that they have a baby. The woman is kind and lets them sleep in the living room. In the morning her father is still missing. Karen plays with her step-brother. Finally her father shows up. She explains that she ran away. Her father is understanding but there is no room for her in his tiny apartment. She has to return to her mother's place. Some time later Mick and Karen meet Alan at a restaurant. Alan tells them of his terrifying experience in the army. Nonetheless, Alan likes the army and even urges Mick to enroll. Karen is alarmed at that thought, but Mick is tired of being unemployed. The guys continue the manly conversation ignoring Karen. When Alan leaves, Karen is moody and brash. She tells Mick bluntly that he has to decide what he wants to do with her. Later he is in the usual unemployment line with many other young men.

Fatherland (1986), aka Singing the Blues in Red (1986), is an international political thriller of sorts.

Un cantautore dissidente della DDR si rifugia a Berlino Ovest, dove si scontra con i mali del capitalismo, e poi si mette in cerca del padre che trova in Inghilterra, anch'egli esule da trent'anni; ma scopre che questi fu costretto a fare la spia contro gli ebrei dai nazisti, e poi uccise anarchia per conto di Stalin, e poi è stato spia per la CIA nell'est.

Hidden Agenda (1990) is a thriller.

Riff-Raff (1991) is one of his best films.

Raining Stones (1993) is a moral apologue in which the man persecuted by fate and society is helped by a priest who is not afraid of challenging the law and creating his own justice.

Tom and Bob steal a sheep in a field and take it home in their van, but then don't have the guts to kill it, so they bring it to their friend the butcher who cuts its throat. Then Tom and Bob walk from pub to pub to try to sell the meat but they make very little money. Meanwhile Bob's seven-year-old daughter Coleen is studying catechism, preparing for her first Holy Communion. In a pub Tom learns that the patrons are collecting money to send their friend Joey to Lourdes, hoping that this will heal him of his injury after he me fell off a roof. When Tom walks outside, he realizes that their van has been stolen because he forgot the keys inside. He and Bob look in vain everywhere. Bob returns home with the bad news that his van has been stolen, which limits the jobs he can take. He asks his wife Anne about Coleen's class. She needs a new dress for the Holy Communion but they don't have the money. Bob is nonetheless determined to get her a new dress. Anne protests that they can't even pay their electrical and gas bills. Bob comes up with the idea of cleaning the drains of homes with some rods that he can borrow from Anne's father Jimmy, but nobody needs his plumbing services. The only one is the local priest, who however expects him to work for free. The priest know that Bob and anne cannot afford to buy a nice dress for their daughter Coleen and offers Bob a used dress that has been donated to the church, but Bob refuses: he wants a nice new dress for the special day of his daughter. He signs up at the unemployment agency. Tom does the same. Back home Tom finds his daughter Tracey who has come to visit her parents. She lives by herself and has a job, and even gives her dad Tom some money. Bob and Anne check out the price of a dress for their daughter and Bob decides to reserve it despite Anne's protestations that there's no way they can pay for it. Bob pretends that he won money betting on a horse. Bob finds a job as a bouncer in a rave club. On the very first night, however, he discovers Tom's daughter Tracey dealing drugs. He starts yelling at her and causing a commotion, and he is fired. Tom comes up with another crazy idea. His friend Dixie has started a business stealing turf/lawn and reselling it. Bob and Tom accompany him on one such errand. So Tom convinces Bob to try on their own: dig up turf in parks, gardens and cemeteries and then sell it to people who need a lawn. They need a van. Bob visits again Anne's father Jimmy. Jimmy knows of his financial troubles and disagrees with Bob's trust in the church. Jimmy gives him a sort of communist lecture that the system is rigged against workers. However, Jimmy puts him in touch with a man named Cliff who has a van for rent. Bob sees a man being beaten up by loan sharks for not repaying his debt. Anne hears that a neighbor tried to kill herself with an overdose. Anne applies for a job in a textile factory but doesn't know how to use a sewing machine. Coleen is happy to try the white dress on, and happy when she sees the invitation cards with her pictures on it. Bob gets a bill in the mail that he can't afford but doesn't tell Anne. One day a loan shark barges into the apartment while Anne and little Coleen are making cakes and tells Anne that Bob owes him money. He forces her to give him her wedding ring and threatens Coleen, knowing that the money was borrowed to pay for her dress. Bob sees the loan shark leave as he is getting home and senses what happened. Bob is furious and Tom tries in vain to stop him: Bob heads to the pub where the loan shark, Tansey, hangs out. Bob waits until the loan shark and his friends leave the pub. Bob follows him to a parking garage and tries to attack him with a wrench, but Tansey beats him up and gets in his car. Bob attacks the windshield of the car, causing Tansey to crash against a pillar and kill himself. Bob then steals Tansey's notebook with all the names of his debtors, and, in the middle of the night, hides at the priest's place. Sobbing, Bob confesses that he caused Tansey's death, that he borrowed money, that he borrowed it for Coleen's dress. Bob is ready to surrender to the police, but the priest advises him not to: Tansey was a bad man and the priest personally burns the notebook. The priest even advises Bob to hide the incident from Anne. The day of the Holy Communion comes. During the ceremony Tom informs Bob that Tansey died in a car accident. Tom gets nervous when he sees a police car drive by. We see two cops knocking at his door and expect the worst, but instead the cops are delivering the message that his stolen van has been found. Meanwhile, the good priest in person performs the holy communion.

Loach, a sensitive and patient investigator of middle-class dramas and anxieties, applied methods of the Victorian novels to describe the turmoil of younger generations in post-war Britain. His cinema is soaked with pessimism about the fate of the working class.

Ladybird Ladybird (1994) insists a bit too much on the miseries of a woman persecuted by a heartless bureaucracy, and it doesn't have a real ending.

The film opens in a karaoke bar where Maggie is singing a moving ballad and Jorge is listening to her while drinking a beer. Jorge is an immigrant from southern America and invites Maggie for a drink. Maggie tells him that she is a mother of four children (Sean, Serena, Mickey and Mary) she had from four different men. They are now in the hands of social workers. A flashback shows her father abusing her mother. Maggie has to run to catch the bus but Jorge runs after the bus because she forgot her wallet, and convinces her to get off and go to his apartment. He tells her that he is a poet who has traveled around the world. She tells him that the social workers took the children from her after her most recent love story. A flashback shows her becoming Simon's girlfriend when she already had three children, and then Simon brutally beating her up in front of the children. She spent a few days at the hospital and then social services found her a room in a "refuge for women". Maggie confesses to Jorge that she still loved Simon, despite his violent temper. Jorge tries to kiss her but she decides to leave, except that she starts beating her head against the door and crying. She misses her children and is full of pain. Another flashback shows Maggie singing in the karaoke club when she receives an urgent call to rush home: a fire at the refuge almost killed her children, but luckily only one (Sean) was injured in the fire. Because she had abandoned the children to go to the bar, Sean was placed in foster care. The flashback shows Maggie visiting Sean and getting into an argument with his foster mother Mary. Maggie and Jorge have sex. Another flashback shows the social workers telling her that, if she wants Sean back, she has to move into a "family center" where she will be supervised to make sure that the other children are not at risk. However, when she walked into the family center, she was so disgusted that she left immediately and went to hide with the children at Simon's place. The following morning they fled in Simon's van from the social workers. Simon insisted that she picked up the welfare check and, when she refused, he again beat her up in front of the children like the previous time. Maggie then called the police and surrendered but her children were taken away from her. It's early morning and Maggie wants to go home but Jorge insists that she stays. Jorge reveals that he is running away from political enemies who would kill him like they killed one of his uncles. He wrote about injustice in his country. He is married but knows nothing of his wife. Maggie loses a court hearing about the children. She is not considered capable of caring for them. Jorge tries to console her. He reveals that his visa has expired so technically he is an illegal alien if he doesn't leave immediately: he tears the plane tickets in front of her to prove his love for her. The film fast forwards to a few months later when Maggie is pregnant with Jorge's child. They move into a new apartment. Jorge finds a job. They are happy together until one day Maggie sees an advertisement in the classified of the newspaper: they are looking for a foster family for Sean. Maggie gives birth to a girl, Zoe. When Moira, a social worker, comes to check on the baby, Maggie doesn't let her in. The social worker returns and reveals that she knows about Maggie's children, while Jorge is hiding in the closet for fear of being deported. Later Maggie sees her racist neighbor speaking with an officer. Maggie's sister Mairead visit them with her children just when the police rush in to take her baby away. She initially begs them and then assaults them hysterically. Two social workers come to discuss the case but Maggie loses her patience when they keep asking silly questions. Maggie starts shouting back at them and reveals that her father sexually abused her and social workers did nothing to help her. In court the racist neighbor lies under oath that Jorge is violent and beats up Maggie. Jorge is asked to testify and the prosecutor asks him questions about his life. The judge decides to assign Zoe to long-term foster parents. Jorge's immigrant status also comes under examination but it turns out to be good for him, as they legalize his stay. He is now free to come and go as he pleases. When he tells Maggie the good news, he finds a changed woman. Maggie is bitter and violent. She wants him out of her life, convinced that he will leave her sooner or later, and even throws objects at him. Months later Maggie is pregnant again of Jorge. Her sister Mairead warns her in vain that they will take this one away too. Maggie insists that she and Jorge will have a family, no matter what. After giving birth, she is still at the hospital when social workers arrive to come and take the baby. Maggie tries to jump from the windows and has to be sedated. Some time later Maggie and Jorge are at home watching television and Maggie has become a violent person. The film ends informing us that will have three more children and they will be allowed to keep them.

Land and Freedom (1995) is an odd tribute to the foreign fighters who fought in the Spanish civil war of the 1930s.

Doctors enter a house for an emergency call. Inside the house we see an old man lying on the couch, and the doctors are told that the old man, named David Carr, collapsed. They take him to the hospital and his grand-daughter comes along. But he never makes it, and dies in the ambulance. The movie cuts to David Carr's grand-daughter seeing his belongings. There she finds newspaper cuts about the Spanish civil war and socialist movements. This is the introduction to the film. After this we see the opening credits, and some old footage while we get the information that in Spain in February 1936 a coalition of socialist, republican and other left wing parties were victorious in the general election and that the big landowners, industrialists, churchmen and army officers fear of the power of the working class induced a military uprising, led by the fascist general, Franco, against the government. The resistance to Franco's army is formed by militias organized by trades unions and political parties fighting for their democratic rights. At this point we get to know that this footage and information is actually a film being showed in Liverpool to the young David Carr. Member of the British Communist party and impressed by the violence being held against his Spanish comrades he decides to go to Spain and help fight the fascism. Next we see David Carr in a train in Spain, on his way to join the International Brigades, which are government supported brigades. On the train he meets some Spanish people, members of a POUM (Workers' Party of Marxist Unification) militia. They are fighting fascism and he decides to join them to fight in the Aragon front. In the POUM militias (in contrary to what was normal at the time) men and woman fought together, and the officials were chosen by vote. In the following months he makes friends with some of the other members of the militia, like the French Bernard, Maite and Bianca for whom he also falls in love with. He also fights in the liberation of villages hold by the fascist army. Soon they receive indications from the republican government telling the POUM that in order for them to receive new weapons they need to follow the rules of a regular army, what means no women fighting and regular military posts. The majority of the POUM members decide not to follow the rules of the government, and continue to organize in their own way and without receiving any help. So they continue to fight with their old weapons, what some consider to be suicide. One day, while training with POUM weapons, Carr gets injured. The rifle explodes in his face and he ends up in a hospital in Barcelona. In Barcelona he decides to join the International Brigade, which was his original plan. He meets Bianca in Barcelona, and she criticizes severely his decision of joining the International Brigades, saying they are being influenced by Stalinism and betraying the revolution. While he is on the Brigade, fighting against anarchists and members of other left wing factions that the republican government is now trying to repress. He feels disappointed and so he decides to join the POUM again. But when he comes back he finds his old POUM militia surrounded by the government army who demands them to surrender. In this climate of tension Bianca gets shot by the army and dies. After Bianca's funeral Carr goes back to the United Kingdom. At this moment the film cuts back to the present, and we see Carr's funeral. The movie ends with his grand-daughter throwing a piece of Spanish land she found in his belongings to his tomb.
(Stub prepared by Guilherme Caeiro Copyright © 2013)

My Name Is Joe (1998), written by Paul Laverty,

Loach focused on income inequality in the USA with Bread and Roses (2000).

The Navigators (2001)

The powerful and tense Sweet Sixteen (2002), written by Paul Laverty and mostly recited in a local dialect, is about the "ned" subculture, young pranksters who dropped out of school and live mostly in the streets with no goal in life. It is basically a film noir about an aspiring gangster whose femme fatale, who leads him to ruin, is his own mother. He sacrifices his best friend and his sister to the dream of giving his mother a better future only to find out that his mother is happy with her present.

Two teenagers, Liam and Pinball, are selling cigarettes to the customers of a pub. The owner kicks them out. One of them notices a truck that is backing up from a driveway where a cop just parked his motorcycle and misleads the truck driver into hitting the motorcycle. He then steals the cop's helmet and runs.
Liam is in the car with a man called Stan and his grandfather. Stan forces him to hide some drugs in the mouth. They are visiting Liam's mother in jail and Liam is supposed to pass the drugs to her. We understand that Stan (his mother's boyfriend) and his grandfather are drug dealers. Alone with his mother, Liam asks her why she's taking such a chance in jail that could cost her more jail time. Her mother replies that it's Stan's idea to make some money selling them to the other female prisoners. Liam gets angry. She's already in jail because of this Stan. And so Liam refuses to pass the drugs to her. On the way back Stan stops the car and beats him up brutally. Liam walks home alone, and finds his belongings broken and spread on the ground in front of his place. His grandfather insults him from a window. Other kids make fun of him. His pal Pinball helps him collect his stuff in two garbage bags and accompanies him as Liam walks to his older sister Chantelle's apartment. Chantelle is a single mother with a toddler, Calum. The boys are attracted by her young friend Suzanne, who is paying her a visit. Later Chantelle washes Liam's wounds and tells him that he can stay with her but is supposed to behave (no cursing, no smoking, etc) because of Calum. The following day Liam is playing with little Calum by the riverside when Pinball shows up driving a stolen car. Pinball convinces him to get in the car with little Calum and takes him for a ride. They stop in front of a trailer that is for sale. Liam is amazed by the splendid location by th water and dreams of buying it so he, his mother and his sister can all live there. Later, Liam hangs out with Pinball and two friends who work at a pizza place (Night-time and Side-kick). Liam makes a tape for her mother and we learn that he's soon to be 16 and she'll be out of jail in a few weeks, the day before his birthday. Liam and Pinball use a binocular to spy on Stan's drug business. Liam knows where Stan stashes the drugs and thinks he can steal the drugs and make enough money to buy the trailer. And so at night Liam and Pinball steal the drugs from the doghouse where Stan hides them. Pinball is scared but Liam even climbs into the apartment to take some photos of his mother as well as... his grandfather's denture. Liam even calls the police to report Stan and his grandfather, and then enjoys watching the cops harass them. Liam and Pinball start selling the drugs in the neighborhood and soon they have enough money to pay the deposit and first installment towards the trailer, although they still owe a lot of money. They celebrate with Chantelle and Suzanne. Then Liam takes the paperwork to her mom in prison to sign. From the window of Pinball's apartment they can see people walking towards a big drug dealer, Ellis. Liam decides to intercept the customers on their way to Ellis but gets beaten up by three thugs. He has to repeatedly attack them in order to get his drugs back. His sister Chantelle has to wash again his wounds. Then one day Liam and Pinball are picked up by the gangsters of drug lord Tony, who also owns a respectable health club. Liam tells him the truth, that he's selling drugs he stole from Stan. Tony only gives him a warning and lets him go, but Pinball makes fun of Tony and Tony's men throw him under the shower. Humiliated, Pinball swears to take his revenge on Tony. Liam and Pinball improve their operations by using the motorcycles of their pizza-delivery friends. Tony asks for a meeting. When Liam and Pinball show up at the appointment, Tony's men send Pinball away, further angering him, and drive Liam to a night-club coldly informing him that he's supposed to kill a dealer named Scullion. Liam nervously follows instructions but at the last second the gang grabs his knife and claps: it was only a test and they congratulate him in being accepted into the gang. One day Liam, Chantelle and Suzanne drive to the trailer and find that it has been burned down. Liam is convinced that it was Stan, but can't find him at his grandfather's home. Meanwhile, Pinball takes his revenge on Tony: Pinball steals his expensive sport car and crashes it into his health club. The following day Tony orders Liam to kill Pinball, and as a reward offers to give his mom an upscale flat in lieu of the trailer. His mom is coming out in three weeks. Tony also informs him that he purchased the pizza place so Liam can expand his drug-dealing business. The price to pay is to kill Pinball, who is like a brother to Liam. Liam confronts Pinball, who senses that Liam has been sent to kill him. Pinball is angry because he feels betrayed by Liam and confesses that he is the one who burned down the trailer. Pinball challenges Liam to kill him but then grabs the knife that Liam carries in his pocket and cuts his own face with it. Liam calls for an ambulance. In the evening Liam calls Tony and tells him that he killd Pinball. Liam sets up shop in the pizza place, dispatching delivery boys to deliver drugs besides pizzas. At home Liam tries in vain to convince Chantelle to move in with his mother in the new flat: Chantelle never forgave her mother. Chantelle has been studying for a honest career and she is proud that she got a part-time job in a call center. Finally the day comes that Liam's mother is released from prison, the eve of his birthday. Liam picks her up with a taxi and dressed like a businessman. Liam has even organized a welcome party in the new apartment. Chantelle shows up with her boy Calum, another surprise for mom. But the following morning Chantelle tells Liam that their mom has left, presumably to go back to Stan. Chantelle tries in vain to convince him that their mother is a loser and will never change. Chantelle also warns him that he is becoming like Stan and like his father and his grandfather. Liam instead blames Chantelle, accusing her of upsetting their mother, and kicks her out of the apartment. Then he takes a taxi to Stan's place. His own mother begs him to let go but he keeps insisting that she leaves Stan. Stan loses his patience and tries to kick Liam out. Liam pulls out his knife and stabs Stan to death. The following morning Liam is walking alone by the water. Chantelle calls to tell him that the police are looking for him. It is his 16th birthday. Liam hangs up and walks towards the sea.

It's a Free World (2007)

The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006), a historical drama set in the Irish countryside during the Irish War of Independence (19191921) and the Irish Civil War (19221923), scripted as usual by Paul Laverty with a title taken from a popular Irish song, and inspired by Walter Macken's novel "The Scorching Wind" (1964), is one of the films that focuses on the madness of war.

Young men, including Damien and his brother Teddy, are playing in a green field of Ireland. We learn that Damien studied medicine and is is about to join a London hospital. He says goodbye to his aunt, to cousin Peggy and to friend Sinead, who is sorry to see him go. We also learn that his parents are dead. Just then English troops run in, shouting and pointing guns. They force the men to line up against a wall and then interrogate them. One of the young men, 17-year-old Micheal, refuses to obey the orders and even punches the commander in the face: he is quickly executed. At the funeral Damien's friends and his own brother Teddy (who is a member of the IRA rebel organization) urge Damien to stay in Ireland, calling him a coward for leaving instead of fighting, but Damien replies that the English have overwhelming military power and it's pointless to oppose them. The following day at the train station Damien sees English troops beat up the driver and the conductor of the train for refusing to allow armed soldiers on the train. That's the last straw: Damien changes his mind, remains in Ireland and joins the Teddy's rebels. Sinead delivers messages to the cell. They are sent to storm English barracks and steal weapons. Teddy, Damien and others wait for four English military police to walk into a pub and then kill them all. One day an English commander, Bill, visits landowner John. Minutes later John summons one of his workers, Chris. The English know that Chris participated in the ambush and John forces him to cooperate. Hours later Teddy's entire group is arrested. Teddy is tortured in jail by the ferocious commander while Damien meets again the train driver, Dan. Damien is interrogated too and provokes the commander with a speech on democracy and the right to self-determination, and even demands to be treated as a political prisoner. The commander order a soldier to shoot Damien in cold blood but the soldier refuses. Damien is thrown back in the cell with Dan, but the English soldier, Johnny, who is half Irish, lets them escape and joins them. However, Johnny doesn't have the keys to one of the cells and three members of the unit remain in jail. Back home, while Teddy is still sick, Damien learns from Sinead who turned them him: Chris and his boss John. Dan and Damien break into John's mansion and force him to write a letter to the commander that he will be executed if the three prisoners are. Then they take both John and Chris hostage and walk them to the mountains. A girl riding a horse delivers a message to Damien: the three prisoners have been tortured and executed. The message also contains the order to execute the hostages. Damien's group debates whether to execute Chris, an old friend who is just a boy, but the orders are clear. Both are allowed to write a farewell letter to their families but Chris doesn't know what to write and his mother can't read anyway. Damien carries out the execution himself although he struggles when he aims at his childhood friend Chris. Some time later Damien, Dan, Teddy and other rebels attend a trial: a rich man is accusing a poor old woman of not having paid her debt and demands a huge interest. The court, which is not the English court, but a new Irish court in a liberated town, decides the case in favor of the debtor based on common sense. A heated argument ensues though because the rich man buys weapons for Teddy, and Teddy refuses to recognize the verdict, while Damien and Dan vigorously defend the Irish court and despise the rich man. Some other time Damien is telling Sinead about the time he told Chris' mother that he killed her son and took her to the chapel where Chris was buried, and she said she'd never want to see him again. A priest confesses the sins of the rebels in their hideout. Some other time Damien's group ambushes an English convoy and kill them all. In retaliation, the English burn down Sinead's farm and torture Sinead. Teddy, Damien and the others watch from far away and cannot do anything to help them. When the English leave, Teddy and Damien comfort Sinead and her mom. Just then a messenger comes riding a bike. He brings an order from the IRA to stop fighting because a truce has been agreed with the English. An excited crowd gathers in a movie theater to watch a documentary about the treaty signed by the Irish and the English that partitions Ireland into an independent republic and a Northern Ireland ruled by Britain. The rebels meet in a room to discuss the treaty. Some think the treaty is a surrender, but Teddy votes for accepting the treaty. Dan and Damien, who lean socialist, are afraid that the treaty will not provide true democracy for ordinary people but simply create a new class of Irish oppressors. Teddy and others enroll in the Irish army while Sinead and Damien watch in disbelief. Teddy, however, uncomfortable with the people being hired by the Irish army, orders the men to continue training for war under the leadership of a hardcore rebel, Rory. Damien is further radicalized when he assists a sick child and realizes that he is not sick: he is starving. The rapture between "free staters" like Teddy and IRA rebels like Damien increases when the free staters try to impose the peace on the IRA using English weapons and methods. Rory attacks some free staters and kills two of them: two fellow Irishmen. When he hears the news, Teddy curses Rory as a madman and orders to shoot at his former men. Teddy feels that rebels like Rory who don't respect the treaty are jeopardizing the peace and will cause the English to come back. And so Ireland reintroduces military courts and even the death penalty, except that this time it is an Irish government to impose them on Irish men. One day Teddy, Damien and Sinead attend church service. The parish priest inveys against the socialist radicals who are advocating the establishment of a socialist state with the seizure and redistribution of land and wealth to workers and peasants. The priest reminds the congregation that the Catholic Church excommunicates communists. Damien rises up and accuses the Church of siding with the rich. Teddy confronts Damien outside the church: socialism is not what they fought for. Teddy accuses Damien of being a dreamer, Damien accuses Teddy of having become a servant of the British Empire. Teddy orders a raid on Sinead's farm, where his brother Damien and Dan are staying, the place where Teddy's men were sheltered and fed so many times. Dan, who had survived the English, is killed despite being unarmed and Damien is captured. Damien ends up in the same cell where the English kept them when they tortured Teddy, except that now Teddy is the jailor. Teddy begs Damien to cooperate with the Irish government reminding him that he could have a peaceful life with Sinead and practicing medicine. Teddy wants to stop and capture Rory, but Damien is not willing to betray Rory after having shot Chris for betraying Teddy. Unable to change Damien's mind, Teddy informs Damien that he will be executed at dawn. Damien writes a farewell letter to Sinead. Teddy in person commands the firing squad that kills Damien. Then Teddy falls into tears in front of his dead brother. Teddy delivers Damien's letter to Sinead and, just like Chris' mother never wanted to see Damien again, Sinead tells Teddy she never wants to see him again.

The Angels' Share (2012) is basically three movies in one: the usual realistic social fresco, a hilarious comedy about four unlikely friends, and a caper film. It is one of the most user-friendly films made by Loach. The happy ending is kind of too "Hollywood-ian" but inspired by real sympathy for the character.

A drunk bald, bespectacled young man, Albert, is dangerously teetering on the edge of railway tracks. When he hears the voice of the station master ordering him to step back, he actually falls on the railway tracks, and barely escapes when the train arrives. Later he gets arrested and taken to court. Other young people who are in court for small offences include Mo, a pathologically shoplifting girl, Rhino, who climbed and desecrated a statue, and Robbie. His attorney convinces the judge to commute Robbie's sentence to community service, just like the others. The reason is that Robbie's girlfriend Leonie is pregnant and he intends to reform his life. A blue van driven by supervisor Harry picks them up and takes to paint walls in a government building. When Robbie's girlfriend goes into labor, it's Harry in person who drives Robbie to the hospital. However, he doesn't manage to see his wife and his baby because Leonie's brothers are waiting for him: Leonie's family does not want Robbie and they beat him up in the stairwell to drive the message home. Harry can only stare in disbelief. Apparently, it's an old family feud: they accuse Robbie of being a prick son of a prick son of a prick. Harry is a good-hearted lonely middle-aged man who takes loser Robbie under his wing. Harry also happens to be a whisky connoisseur. They drink to newborn Luke. Robbie is so determined to prove to Leonie that he is changing that he accepts to attend a counseling session with a boy he injured seriously and with his family. The mother points out the damage Robbie caused when he attacked the car of the boy and kept beating him for no good reason until he detached his retina. His girlfriend Leonie feels shame. Robbie cries speechless.
Harry takes the crew to visit a distillery. Robbie shows that he has good nose. He catches Mo stealing small bottles and reminds her that the good Harry could lose his job for something like that. The friends meet and drink whiskey. Albert throws up and another one drinks his vomited whiskey.
Robbie is still chased by Leonie's brothers. He is saved by her father. Her father, however, only wants to bribe Robbie to leave town. Robbie asks for a second chance, but Leonie's father reminds him that he is jobless and has no future to offer to Leonie. Leonie's father also changed the baby's name from Luke to Vincent, just to prove how irrelevant Robbie is.
Harry takes the crew to clean up a cemetery. Harry invites Robbie to a whisky meeting . Mo overhears them and invites herself and then invites the others. They all travel to the meeting and Robbie impresses a whisky expert with his superhuman ability to recognize high-quality whiskies . Asked by someone in the audience what is the best whiskey, the expert talks about a cask of rare whiskey that will come to an upcoming auction and it is literally priceless. Just one bottle would be enough to make Robbie rich. During the break he is approached by a wealthy whiskey collector, Thaddeus, who tests him and, impressed too, leaves him a business card.
Meanwhile, Leonie and Robbie are looking for a place to live and they meet another kind soul, a woman who is willing to rent them a nice apartment. but Robbie catches Leonie's brother hiding outside, spying on them, and almost takes his eye off with a knife. Robbie realizes that he will never get a second chance unless he makes a lot of money, and the idea forms in his mind of stealing the precious whiskey. The four friends, wearing Scottish kilts, travel (bus, hitchhike, walk) to the location of the auction and witness the expert opening the barrel. At night Robbie enters the warehouse and steals a few liters of the country's most expensive whisky. The plan is to sell it to the collector, Thaddeus. They attend the auction where the price skyrockets Thaddeus keeps bidding but eventually gives up to a collector from the USA. Robbie finds Thaddeus in a pub, drinking alone, desperate, and offers him a sip of the stolen whiskey. Thaddeus realizes that Robbie has some of the precious whiskey and simply asks for the price. The four friends start their trip back home. They are stopped by cops. The cops are obnoxious but have nothing to do with the heist. When the cops leave, an excited Albert, an incredible idiot, manages to break two of the bottles. What is left is enough to make a lot of money out of Thaddeus, which Robbie gladly shares with his friends. What his friends don't know is that Robbie saved one bottle for Harry as a sign of gratitude for the only man who ever gave him a second chance. Robbie loads his wife and his baby in a van and takes off for his new job.

Route Irish (2010)

I Daniel Blake (2016) is a powerful if stereotypical indictment of the computered bureaucracy that oppresses the illiterate poor. It tells two stories, of an old sick man and a single mother, and of the bureaucratic paradoxes that will kill him and force her into prostitution.

We are introduced to Daniel as he is arguing with a "health-care professional" who is asking him and endless sequence of pointless questions instead of dealing with his heart attack. The "professional" is clearly not interested in his health. He sends her to hell but the result is that she fills the questionnaire in a manner to deny him illness benefits. We learn that he used to work in construction, that his wife died and that he lives alone. He receives a letter that he is fit to return to work. He calls the number of the bureaucracy but is kept holding for almost two hours. When he finally speaks with someone, he is told that someone will call him to offer an explanation but he is not told when that will happen. So Daniel decides to physically walk to the office where he could apply for unemployment but is told that he can only do it online. As he insists to explain his case, he is rudely told to leave. He sits down for a moment to catch his breath and witnesses an act of cruelty committed by an employee against a single mother with two children who is being rejected because she arrived late at her appointment. Daniel tries to intervene to defend her and is ejected too. Daniel and Katie walk home together. Daniel offers to fix the toilette's water tank that is broken. Katie tells him her story: evicted from her apartment because she complained of a water leak in the ceiling, she and her children Dylan and Daisy had to spend two years in a shelter for the homeless before being assigned that run-down apartment in that town. Daniel realizes that she has no electricity and she confesses that she didn't pay for it to save money. Meanwhile, Daniel's black neighbor Max, whom Daniel nicknamed "China", is planning to get rich by selling cheap Chinese shoes. He lives with a white housemate, Piper. Daniel is not computer literate and has to visit an Internet cafe' to fill the forms for unemployment benefits. The user interface drives him crazy and he has to ask the young kids around for help. The process is so complicated that he can't finish it before he runs out of time. He looks for help but the employee who tries to help him, Ann, is summoned by her manager and punished for helping a petitioner. Finally, Max/China does it for him at home. Meanwhile he has to survive with no income and no job. Nonetheless, he visits Katie again and fixes broken things around the house. Katie's boy, Dylan, is angry and asocial because he misses the friends he had to leave behind. The girl, Daisy, is sweet and helps Daniel. Daniel, a former carpenter, surprises them by making little decorations and toys. In gratitude, Katie gives Daniel her dinner, but the children point out that Katie has not eaten in days. During the day Katie looks for a job as a cleaner, going door to door. Daniel visits the employment office where a cold employee tells him the rules for qualifying for unemployment benefits. He is forced to attend a resume workshop to learn how to write a resume. Daniel walks around town looking for a job and finally finds someone who appreciates his 40 years of experience as a carpenter. One day Daniel escorts Katie and the children to a food bank. Katie, hungry, breaks down crying. Daniel receives an automatic phone call telling him that he has been deemed fit for work and is not entitled to unemployment insurance. He can't pay his bills. He also has to turn down the job that he's been offered because his doctor tells him he's not ready for work yet. Katie meanwhile gets in trouble when she gets caught shoplifting at a supermarket. The security guard escorts her to the manager's office where she begs for mercy. The manager is kind and lets her go. On the way out the security guard, Ivan, tells her she's pretty and gives her his phone number. Katie and the children visit Daniel and see how much he misses his wife. Katie reveals that her mother was opposed to her first marriage and turned out to be right, and then Katie made the same mistake with Dylan's father. The employment officer is shocked to see that Daniel cannot prove that he looked for a job and has a handwritten resume. She suspends his benefits. He offers him poverty benefits and directs him to a food bank. He leaves without uttering a word. Daniel sells some stuff and moves into a smaller place. One night Katie's girl Daisy can't fall asleep because she's been mocked at home for her poverty. Katie decides to call Ivan and accepts his offer to become a prostitute. Daniel, who is building a desk for her so she can take evening classes, finds out about it when he finds a piece of paper with the phone number and the name of the female escort business. Daniel shows up the brothel and tries to stop her, but she insists it's the only way left for her to feed her children. Fed up with the bureaucracy, Daniel spraypaints on a wall "I, Daniel Blake, demand my appeal date before I starve". Bystanders clap and cheer, but he is arrested by the police. Finally the bureaucracy sets in motion: doctors get furious that he has been forced to look for work, an appeal is granted to him, and an adviser encourages him. Katie attends the appeal with Daniel, but Daniel has a heart attack in the bathroom and dies right in the tribunal. At his funeral Katie reads the speech that Daniel had prepared for his appeal, of course handwritten with a pencil. Daniel wrote a powerful indictment of the system, and wanted to remind the court that he was not a number but a man.

Sorry We Missed You (2019) scripted as usual by Paul Laverty, is another working-class melodrama full of tension and emotion. The protagonist is a man condemned to a vicious loop of increasing tough work and declining returns. In the desperate attempt to pay his monetary debts, the man creates a huge emotional debt within his family. Loach is a master of setting up embarrassing and heartbreaking scenes.

While the title rolls, we hear the voice of a man interviewing for a new job. Ricky is talking with his new boss Maloney, explaining that he thinks this is the opportunity of a lifetime and Maloney reminding him what the conditions are. Ricky has to run his own franchise as an independent delivery driver with his own van. The only problem is that he doesn't have a van. He discusses the opportunity with his sweet wife Abbie. They need to sell something to pay for the van. She needs her car for work because her job is to provide health care at home, but the car is the only valuable they have, so he tells Abbie they need to sell it for him to start the business that will solve their problem. Their teenage son is not impressed. On the first day of work Maloney gives Ricky a very expensive scanner that will be used to track the packages as he delivers them. Maloney warns him that he will have narrow windows of time to deliver. Ricky learns the first day that it is difficult to make deliveries in time: cops threaten to give him parking tickets if he parks illegally, directions are sometimes confusing, traffic can be hell, and some customers like to argue about anything. Meanwhile, we see the generous Abbie taking care of a paranoid old disabled woman, Rosie, who hides in a closet, a difficult patient who throws the food on the floor; and then an old man who suffers from incontinence. Now Abbie has to take the bus and while on the bus she calls her children Liza Jane and Seb to control their lives. Seb is in trouble at school. At home Seb shows Liza Jane a video of him drawing graffiti on a wall. At night he goes out with friends to draw the graffiti while his tired parents fall asleep on the couch watching television. Maloney offers Ricky the more profitable route of a driver who has been late a few times. Ricky accepts it and then tries to apologize to the penalized driver, but this man is furious and insults him. One morning while their mother is taking care of another difficult patient, a disabled young man named Seb, Liza Jane tries in vain to wake up her brother Seb, who has no intention of going to school. Seb skips school to join his friends to paint graffiti. His best friend is a girl, Roz, but she has decided to move to another town because she is being bullied both by other girls and by her mother's boyfriend. Meanwhile, Abbie is spending time with a client, Mollie, who shows family photos and then Abbie shows photos of little Seb and explains how the family got in financial trouble: ten years earlier they had the mortgage to buy a home but Ricky lost his stable job and since then he has been going from job to job. Finally, Ricky and Abbie find out that Seb has been painting graffiti. Abbie tries to calm Ricky and avoid that he shouts at the boy. Seb confesses that he sold his winter jacket to buy the spray paint. His mother is heartbroken: she spent so much money for it and now she can't afford to buy him another one. Ricky reminds Seb that they might be fined if he keeps skipping school. Abbie asks him if he doesn't want to go to university. Seb mentions his friend Harpoon's brother who got into debt to study and now has a humble job. Ricky tells Seb that there are plenty of good jobs, and Abbie makes fun of the job Ricky has. Ricky loses his patience and walks away from Seb. Abbie simply cries mumbling that they works so hard. Liza Jane, on the other hand, likes to join her father on his delivery rounds. Abbie is frustrated because her boss is demanding that she spends more time with the clients, and her conscience tells her to do so, but the boss is not willing to pay her overtime and the time she spends with clients takes her away from her kids. She feels horrible that she abandoned a hysterical old woman whose daughter doesn't care. One night the family is having dinner together and Seb is unusually friendly and cheerful but Abbie gets an emergency call: Mollie, who can't even go to the toilet or go to bed without help, has been abandoned at home. Seb proposes that the whole family takes her to Mollie's in Ricky's van and they have fun doing so. When Ricky shows up, Mollie is embarrassed and humiliated but she is "soaking wet". One day Abbie calls Ricky that the headmaster has called for an emergency meeting and both parents need to be there. Ricky, however, has a busy schedule and can't find anyone to cover for him, so he misses the meeting. Abbie too is busy, going from client to client on buses plus calling the children, but attends the meeting. When Ricky gets home, he finds out that Seb has been expelled for two weeks due to his violent behavior. Ricky gets angry that Abbie didn't argue with the headmaster but Abbie shouts back that Ricky should have been there in person. Ricky tells Seb that this is the first argument he's ever had with Abbie and it's because of him. At work Ricky tells Maloney of his family problems and begs him to give him one week off. Maloney coldly replies that everybody has problems and threatens to sanction him if he takes time off. Then one day the police call him: they caught Seb shoplifting, stealing cans of spray paint. They want a parent to pick up the boy. Ricky tries in vain to reach Abbie and eventually resigns himself to leave work, which infuriates Maloney who slaps a heavy fine on Ricky. At the police station Seb hears a lecture from the cop. Then at home Ricky tries to lecture Seb himself but Seb annoyingly keeps watching his phone instead and remains indifferent to his father's threats. When Ricky loses his temper, Seb replies that it's called "multitasking". Ricky grabs the phone from Seb. Seb reacts like a beast that is under attack. Father and son get into a physical fight. Seb then leaves the house swearing revenge as if depriving him of his phone were the ultimate offense. Later Abbie and Ricky argue: Abbie still thinks they should not be tough on Seb, while Ricky feels he has been as tolerant as possible. Abbie understands that the phone is Seb's life. Liza Jane is traumatized by the fight between her father and her brother. The following morning they realize that Seb has vandalized pictures of the family with spray paint. Seb has also written a giant "prick" on the back of Ricky's van. And the keys of the van have disappeared. When Seb reappears, he denies taking the keys and calls his father names. Ricky attacks him violently and then leaves the house. Liza Jane calls him and confesses that she is the one who stole the key, because she blames Ricky's new job for all their problems. Meanwhile, Maloney has sanctioned Ricky again. Ricky returns to his delivery job but three thugs attack him, beat him up, steal his parcels and smash his scanner. He is taken to the hospital with bruises and scars all over his face. Maloney calls to tell Ricky that he has to pay for the broken scanner, and it's a lot of money. The sweet Abbie loses her temper, grabs the phone and insults Maloney. Back home the good news is that Seb is finally sympathetic. When Ricky, who is still bandaged, decides to go back to work, Seb stands in front of his van to stop him: he is in no condition to drive. Ricky explains that he has debts to pay. Seb tries in vain to explain that life was better before Ricky got that job (and can only get worse if Ricky keeps that job). Abbie joins Seb screaming to Ricky not to go, but Ricky takes off anyway.

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