Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Louise Osmond

Starring

Cillian Murphy Ken Loach Paul Laverty

Anticipation.

Scarily good timing.

Enjoyment.

The usual mix of anecdotes and talking heads. Passes the time.

In Retrospect.

Hardly revelatory, but Ken seems like a nice fellow.

One of Britain’s most lauded and long-serving leftwing voices gets the whistlestop biog treatment.

Could this documentary puff piece on the life and times of British stalwart filmmaker and firebrand Ken Loach have come at a more opportune moment? As space has still yet to be made on the mantelpiece for his second Palme d’Or, awarded to anti-bureaucracy screed I, Daniel Blake, this career cover-all suddenly gains masses of newly acquired relevance. This is his hero’s welcome.

The film, by director Louise Osmond, is topped and tailed by Our Ken referring to the currant Conservative government “bastards”. But he does so under his breath, like Billy Casper would if he was attempting to get one over on his hectoring schoolmasters. The way he intones the word is almost like he’s saying it because it’s expected of him more than he actually believes it. It’s like he’s accepted the image that people have of him and is playing along for the camera. He even follows the exclamation up with a cheeky little laugh. It’s strange.

Yet there’s no denying that Loach is a more avuncular and softly spoken presence than his films might have us believe. His soap box is lined with ethically sourced imitation fur. Early on, Loach says that he believes politics to be the source of all dramatic conflict, and so the film examines the director’s work from that vantage, training its focus on the times in which he was either made famous for his strident views (Cathy Come Home) or was vilified for them (an entire swathe of the 1980s in which he was forced to make TV ads).

Tall tales from on set are reeled off and mixed with fond testimonials from the likes of producer Tony Garnett and his current screenwriter squeeze, Paul Laverty. More time is given over to Loach’s early years when his recourse to work was far more precarious, and he made quite a habit of producing documentaries, plays and films which were banned by crooked commissioners and paymasters. This is a serviceable Wiki profile-as-film for those looking to do some light learning on one of Europe’s most cherished leftwing voices.

Published 2 Jun 2016

Tags: Ken Loach

Anticipation.

Scarily good timing.

Enjoyment.

The usual mix of anecdotes and talking heads. Passes the time.

In Retrospect.

Hardly revelatory, but Ken seems like a nice fellow.

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