We have always been under the impression that out editor was a keen gardener having spent many an hour alone in his shed telling his wife that’s he’s gone in there to, ‘get wood’ only for her to then find him thumbing through back issues of Razzle (‘You’re fired!’ – Ed). Ken Loach’s latest and possibly last film, ‘The Old OaK’ would seem to be ideal for someone with an interest in ‘getting wood’ but we may have misunderstood (‘You’re definitely fired! – Ed)
The title refers to a pub as deprived as the former mining town it is located but it is one of the towns few places for the community to gather and its mainly disaffected locals angry at the how their town has gone downhill and house prices have collapsed made worse by anonymous companies buying them up to rent out to a stream of Syrian immigrants being bussed into the town. Newly arrived is Yara (Ebla Mari) with her mother and brothers having escaped from the Assad regime awaiting news of her father still trapped there. In the middle of all this is TJ (Dave Turner) the divorced landlord and with an estranged son and who relies on the locals to keep his pub open but develops a friendship with TJ. That one local starts a sentence with, ‘I’m no racist but…’ is an indicator of what TJ and the Syrian refugee are up against and their animosity only intensifies when TJ won’t allow the locals to use his back room for a meeting but instead does open it up as a venue for community meals and not just for the newly arrived Syrians but locals kids and pensioners too. It’s an idea that Yara saw in the photos of the miners 1984 strike on the walls of TJ’s pub, the idea being that the community that eats together stays together – suggesting that Gemma Collins has been conducting a secret relationship with the Michelin Man.
It’s a wonderfully compassionate idea that Loach and his long term collaborator and writer Paul Laverty have taken up and is a reminder that there is a humanity inherent in everyone and it is what makes Loach’s films ultimately uplifting. Loach last few films have dealt with issues that have arisen through 13 years of conservative government policy most notably with ‘I. Daniel Blake’ dealing with the rise in poverty and foodbanks in a 1st World country. 2019’s ‘Sorry We missed You’ addressed the insecurity of the gig economy and The Old Oak deals with the basic humanity and compassion for others in all of us. At 87 years old cinema needs directors like Ken Loach as much as ever and it will be a sore loss to film making if this is to be his last film.
Related feature :Director Ken Loach talks about, ‘I, Daniel Blake’
Here’s The Old Oak trailer….