When this film was first released, I heard great things about it, and directed by Ken Loach would in itself bring a certain expectation, but because the 'Eric' in the title referred to Eric Cantona, I thought it would be all about football, and much as I'm a hopeless fan of the sport, with an unequalled knowledge of the game (NOT!!), I was unconvinced about how 'great' this film could be. I was proven wrong.
The film instead of bringing to light the trials and troubles of Cantona, bespoke those of Eric, a man in his fifties, to whom life has dealt some tough blows, and who is now questioning the validity of his life, as he trudges joylessly through the banal, day-to-day slog, being walked on by everyone it seems, on his way. His one idol, his one inspiration is Eric Cantona, and a life-size poster in his room, makes him ever-present. The film goes on to show how Cantona begins to appear to Eric through dreams of sorts, acting as a mentor and advisor to him in his hour of need. Cantona then assumed the role of a god-like figure, albeit smoking weed, and appeared as wise, noble and strong, speaking volumes in but a few words.
The story centred around an episode in Eric's life, where he was forced into meeting his first wife and first love after many years of silence, and he freezes. He is overcome with guilt, anger and remorse over all the wrong directions he took in life, and had something of a breakdown Meanwhile, his friends, loyal though they are, do not provide sufficient stimulation or interest for Eric, and his sons are taking him and his home completely for granted, and are getting into trouble beyond their reach. Eric, weak, has let all this happen. He turns to Cantona for the strength to turn his life around.
The plot was strong, with several subplots running simultaneously, which kept the story alive. The characters were beautifully played, the two Erics standing out most for me, especially in those scenes where they appeared together, both acting as a foil for the other, but forming something of an intimate relationship nonetheless. The film had an even balance of humour and pathos, very often the humour exposing some of the pathos lurking beneath, for example in the scene where the co-workers were gathered at Eric's house, invoking their idols in order to assume their qualities in an effort to change their lives. This session was directed by Meatballs, a well-intentioned but simple man, and the boorish way that he led the session, showed the huge gap between the reality and the dream.
All in all, despite lacking a certain subtlety at times, it was a very enjoyable film, one where the football theme runs throughout, but remains in the background, letting the more important issues of life and love come to the fore.