A Free World (15)
Directed by Ken Loach, Written by Paul Laverty
Screening on Channel 4 at 9pm on 24th September 2007
Throughout a career that has spanned almost half a century, Ken Loach
has won a small but dedicated band of enthusiasts, who relish his pull-no-punches
realism and dedication to telling the stories of people who are misleadingly
labelled 'ordinary'. Though his latest film has so far only got a one-day
release at certain Picturehouse venues, it is well worth tuning into Channel
4 on Monday 24th September to see it, because he and writing partner Paul
Laverty have only gone and done it again.
When we meet Angie (Kierston Wareing), she is just about to get sacked
from her job in a Polish recruitment agency for throwing a glass of water
in the face of a sleazy boss. Sick of being treated like shit as a temp
worker, and concerned for the future of her son (Joe Siffleet), she decides
to set up her own business finding work for migrant labourers from the
back of a London pub. With her flatmate (Juliet Ellis) by her side, Angie
sets off on a corporate learning curve far steeper than the one taken
by the well-heeled contestants on The Apprentice. So just how far will
the pair go to make some money and gain some self-respect? As it turns
out, a long, long way...
Loach and Laverty's great strength as filmmakers is undoubtedly character
development. In each of their films, the protagonists end up being very
different people from how they begin, and yet this is almost always done
seamlessly and believably. The reason for this is that whenever someone
has to make a choice in one of their films, they inevitably follow what
seems to be in their material interests. Their perspective isn't a cynical
one; they just call it as they see it. Where most these days strive for
the literally 'sensational' and 'unbelievable', Loach and Laverty pride
themselves in achieving just the opposite.
The title is of course an ironic one. Politicians tell us we are 'free'
every day, even waging wars in the name of 'liberty', but the only true
freedom in our society seems to be that of money to move around the world,
reducing every human relationship to cold cash calculation. As Loach has
pointed out in interviews for the film, the 'flexible' labour market just
means workers globally must bend over backwards to satisfy the needs of
profit-hungry corporations. Business has its cake and eats it, because
in the absence of any alternative, the right finds it easy to divide and
therefore conquer workers. This isn't one of their inspiring pictures
by any means (unlike say 'Bread and Roses' or 'Land and Freedom'), but
Loach and Laverty have no duty to put a smile on our faces. In their eyes,
diagnosis of the disease is the first step towards curing it.