1987, love in time of war. A bus driver George Lennox meets Carla, a Nicaraguan exile living a precarious, profoundly sad life in Glasgow. Her back is scarred, her boyfriend missing, her ... See full summary »
Spring 1936, a young unemployed communist, David, leaves his hometown Liverpool to join the fight against fascism in Spain. He joins an international group of Militia-men and women, the ... See full summary »
Angie gets the sack from a recruitment agency for bad behaviour in public. Seizing the chance, she teams up with her flatmate, Rose, to run a similar business from their kitchen. With ... See full summary »
This Ken Loach film tells the story of a man devoted to his family and his religion. Proud, though poor, Bob wants his little girl to have a beautiful (and costly) brand-new dress for her ... See full summary »
This Ken Loach docu-drama relates the story of a British woman's fight with Social Services over the care of her children. Maggie has a history of bouncing from one abusive relationship to ... See full summary »
A train travels across Italy toward Rome. On board is a professor who daydreams a conversation with a love that never was, a family of Albanian refugees who switch trains and steal a ticket... See full summary »
Maya is a quick-witted young woman who comes over the Mexican border without papers and makes her way to the LA home of her older sister Rosa. Rosa gets Maya a job as a janitor: a non-union janitorial service has the contract, the foul-mouthed supervisor can fire workers on a whim, and the service-workers' union has assigned organizer Sam Shapiro to bring its "justice for janitors" campaign to the building. Sam finds Maya a willing listener, she's also attracted to him. Rosa resists, she has an ailing husband to consider. The workers try for public support; management intimidates workers to divide and conquer. Rosa and Maya as well as workers and management may be set to collide. Written by
Illegal Mexican immigrant Maya (Pilar Padilla) arrives at her big sister's house looking to work with her as an office cleaner. She dodges potential abduction and rape on her hazardous quest to make a better life for herself. However, union organiser Sam (Adrien Brody) convinces her that betterment lies not in slaving for below minimum wage, but in joining his Justice for Janitors campaign.
Watching Bread and Roses I realised that, for many years, my wish to support Ken Loach and Paul Laverty has over-ruled my actual dislike for their films. Bread and Roses references an inspiring story, but the actual relaying of it cinematically by Loach, and in narrative terms by Laverty, is flat and under-realized. The rhythm of the scenes is stuttering, like poor improv or early rehearsals. Sam shows up at big sister Rosa's house, and immediately launches into a pro-union speech like he has known these people for a while. The cleaning company boss is a pantomime villain. There is some kind of spurious romance triangle that never really develops, and a few so-called comedy scenes to ease the intended sense of tragedy, except the whole thing is so uninvolving that it hardly matters.
As much as Laverty cannot characterise beyond two-note archetypes, Loach appears unable to manage shot flow. The camera seems merely plonked down in front of the actors - there is not one frame where the composition seems planned, never mind memorable.
Kes is a masterpiece. But since then, I have sat through Riff Raff, Land and Freedom, Sweet Sixteen, My Name is Joe, Carla's Song, Ae Fond Kiss... and come away underwhelmed each and every time. The themes are oh-so earnest, the politics very correct, the focus on the under-represented, marginalised and disenfranchised laudable in the extreme. It just never seems cinematic. Does Loach ask himself "Why is this topic better as a fiction feature than a documentary?" If he does, I cannot imagine what the answer is.
My father was a car factory shop steward, so I grew up with these issues in my living room. I come from a Glasgow working-class background, so I am empathetic to many of Laverty's chosen arenas. But the bottom line is, I just don't find myself entertained or edified by any of these films. Watching Bread and Roses, I didn't laugh, and I didn't cry. And it was clearly going after both reactions.
Loach does get some great performances at times (e.g. Peter Mullen in My Name is Joe), and here Pilar Padilla as the lead, and Elpidia Carrillo as her long-suffering elder sister Rosa, bring a touch of authentic rawness to the subject. But in a key revelatory scene between the two, the camera is placed at an in-between distance, the cutting arbitrary, and the words seem scripted rather than spontaneous.
Loach and Laverty now have a substantial body of work to their collaboration. Quite simply, I do not understand why.
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