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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A battle to retain humanity in the desperation of 1980s Northern England

7/10
Author: (elliottm@blueyonder.co.uk) from United Kingdom
22 May 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The low budget look and feel of this movie topped off by being shot in black and white gives a stark portrayal of the complete lack of opportunities for the young unemployed in the north of England in the early 1980s. This can be compared in some ways to "Love on the Dole", but it is even less romanticised in the way it deals with the curse of mass unemployment and the corrosive effects it has on a society that doesn't deserve it.

Two lads drift along in between signing on trying their best to retain their self respect and stay within the law. One of the lads decides his only way out is to join the army whereupon he is sent over to Northern Ireland. On returning home on leave, he exhibits the signs of having been brutalised by the experience as he talks with apparent relish about the savage treatment meted out by British soldiers during raids in Roman Catholic areas.

The other lad, Mick meanwhile has met a girl who despite having a job (in a shop), is troubled due to her parents having split up and her having arguments with her stressed out mother. When the girl decides to run away to see her father who now lives in Bristol, Mick decides to go with her. However, her father is now living with another woman and simply tells his daughter that she cannot stay with him.

On returning north, there is nothing new or different for Mick. The atmosphere of hopelessness is excellently captured along with the efforts the young characters make to rise above it. The result is what it sets out to be, namely a bleak allegory on the effects of economic recession and harsh government policies on people with no control over such things and little hope of escape other than being starved in to the armed forces in the same way that occurred before both of the world wars.

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Looks & Smiles

7/10
Author: d_m_s from United Kingdom
3 May 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although it's gritty and kind of bleak, this is another enjoyable film from Ken Loach. Loach's old films never fail to amaze in that kind of "I can't believe life was like that" kind of way. Even simple things, like the paper work and processes involved in looking for jobs and signing on have you shake your head in amazement at how things have changed (watching this reminded me of looking for jobs as a teen in the 90's and going through all those hand-written job vacancy notices, now replaced by electronic versions).

Seeing jobless people trying to make something of their lives in a harsh economic situation as it was in the 70's/80's is kind of bleak but this film was too interesting and is too good a document of the time to be depressing. The characters were good, the acting (as always with Loach films) is incredibly realistic and feels like you are watching real people. The directing and cinematography is great too.

Not as good as Riff Raff (my favourite Loach so far) or Kes but still very good and worth a watch.

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