The Life and Films of Ken Loach, film review: ‘Tale of grammar school boy radicalised at Oxford’

Ken Loach in Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach

Ken Loach in Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach - Credit: Archant

Last week there was an article in The Guardian about how Labour candidates in the last elections were like “middle class Ryanair passengers,” trying to suppress their metropolitan squeamishness while canvassing in traditional Labour areas.

The voters on the doorsteps said of the politicians: “You’re all the same” – by which they meant: “You’re nothing like me”.

On the same day, it was reported that Ken Loach, nearing his 80th birthday, had just won prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes for I, Daniel Blake, a film about life on benefits.

This is great news for the makers of this thoroughly decent but very straightforward portrait of the film maker, which looks back over his career, while showing him making that very film.

A grammar school boy from what he calls a working class Tory background, he was ‘radicalised’ when he went to Oxford.


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After failing to make it as an actor, he ended up at the BBC, which at the time he found to be a class-ridden system full of posh actors making period dramas.

The film does a pretty good job of explaining his film-making techniques, how he uses non-professionals who are given limited access to the script, with the film shot chronologically for maximum authenticity.

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Loach is certainly not a Ryanair traveller, but nowadays, I doubt his films have any more relevance to those disillusioned voters on the doorstep than the Labour candidates.

He has stuck rigidly to his principles for five decades, and has gone from making films that grabbed the whole nation – Up The Junction, Cathy Come Home and Kes – to ones only feted abroad or in arthouse cinemas.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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