Loach is 81, and has been unwell with a minor stroke. Yet, his films have not lost their sheen, and are as entertaining as they are provocative. “It’s Free World” is an insightful document on the hassles immigrants face in Britain. Scenes of people huddled into tiny vans that take them to their workplaces every morning are disturbing, and when some of them assault Angie and get from her the money their employers owe them, it conveys the terrible predicament of illegal immigrants.
A single mother, Angie represents a small part of a big problem, and her tough stance sees her through the dark night, in fact many dark nights, but she is helpless when it comes to nurturing a relationship with a bright, young Polish immigrant. Such is the contradiction in her.
A patriarch of a large Arab immigrant family in France forms the subject of Abdellatif Kechiche’s “The Secret of the Grain”. He is, in fact, the counterpart of Angie, firm and solid. When he loses his 35-year-old job in the docks, he decides to use his severance pay for opening a restaurant on an old ship he buys. He gets the most support from the daughter of his lover.
Although the movie’s frequent close-ups, particularly those showing people with mouthful of food, can be an unpleasant distraction, “The Secret of the Grain” builds up to a fine climax, absolutely unexpected.
The writing and acting are good, but the family gatherings appear wee longer because of the helmer’s penchant for close-ups. There were times when I felt that he should have cut the scene. Despite this, the film makes its impact, and one remembers the visuals long after the screen has come down.
(Webposted September 8 2007)