peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 12 07 TheOldOak

The Old Oak (2023)

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Prompted by Jason Di Rosso's interview with director Ken Loach. He's ancient now and his earnest left-wing perspective is similarly timeless and out of time: he romanticises the now-splintered solidarity of the old northern coal-mining villages of England, a union movement that can still dig up a few coins long thought lost in the folds of that worn Chesterfield, the pre-Thatcher working-class values and lifestyle almost gone from living memory. This is done through the lens of how the locals respond to the Syrian refugees that the distant regime in London has dumped on them, without there being sufficient resources to address even their existing social ills. (It's got the downward-spiral logic: the state encourages those it pays the rent for to move to places where rent is cheap, leading to less investment in maintaining or renewing the housing stock of those places. Community disintegration accelerates.) Some of the acting is fine (Dave Turner as a sympathetic publican, Ebla Mari as a photographer who is most of the interface between the English and the Syrians) but too many characters are coarsely drawn (all the grievance-bearers for instance) and there's a curious moving-right-along impatience that leaves most threads unresolved; amongst other things, who didn't want to see what the industrial juice press could do? It's more (literally) mournfully observational than judgemental. It's not This is England. Loach does not pretend to have any solutions.

Peter Bradshaw. Denying the use of the dormant back room to the local (grievance) community then allowing it to be used for communal meals was clunky; why not both? Sandra Hall. The corrective comments are more accurate. That the dogicide had no consequences was a major flaw. Ben Kenigsberg at Cannes: whatever its merits relative to the canon, it bests almost everything else in contemporary cinema. Shades of Peter Gabriel perhaps.