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I’ve seen ‘The Old Oak’

This is Ken Loach’s last film, and the first one I’ve seen. As a Newcastle resident, this admission is tantamount to a criminal offence, but you ought not be surprised. I have thought about going to see Ken Loach films in the past, particularly the almost unavoidable I, Daniel Blake, but I was a little put off by the earnestness of other people’s recommendations. It made me think that his work must be a bit worthy, a bit focused on social justice over critical thought, and who needs worthiness in life?

If it hadn’t been for my cinema-going experiment, I also wouldn’t have gone to see The Old Oak. I had seen trailers and thought they were advertising a pat film about some asylum seekers moving to a small town in County Durham, meeting initial resistance fuelled by a cultural clash, and everyone getting along swimmingly in the end.

My understanding of the set-up was correct, but Loach’s treatment was a good deal more thoughtful than I’d anticipated. There is no straightforward resolution, and there are plenty of subtle touches, though it’s fair to say that the film has a clear moral viewpoint which doesn’t leave much room for uncertainty and exploration. The plot was a little contrived. This is also the kind of film where people talk in full sentences stuffed with exposition, and where thoughts and feelings are voiced more than they are hinted at.

In acting terms, it felt like Ebla Mari (who played the female lead) carried the film: I’d like to see her in other roles, but some of the other performances were a bit less convincing, which I think is attributable to the writing style as much as to the acting.

But I was swept up into the world of the film, suspended my disbelief, and went with it. That’s an achievement. It didn’t change my world, but the film’s positivity did give me a little boost. I enjoyed it, and I think it’s probably worth seeing.

This post was filed under: Film, Post-a-day 2023, , .

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