IT'S A FREE WORLD... (Ken Loach). 96 minutes. Opens Friday (April 25). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNNN
Ken Loach has spent the last two decades making blistering, impassioned indictments of social injustice, and recently in films like Bread And Roses and Ae Fond Kiss, he’s tipped over a little too obviously into the didactic and polemical.
Which makes it a very pleasant surprise to find so much ambiguity and complexity in Loach’s new film. It’s A Free World... is a blank-faced drama about a young woman who rebounds from being dumped by her recruiting firm by opening her own agency for day labourers in the yard behind a London pub, hiring illegal immigrants and working off the books.
This one finds Loach exploring the grey areas he’s previously avoided, painting a rather more textured portrait of a character who starts out with the best of intentions and almost immediately finds herself taking little ethical shortcuts, slighting her workers and becoming just as vicious an exploiter as anyone else.
Loach’s instinct for strong actors is unerring, and Kierston Wareing’s ferocious performance as the conflicted Angie brings a jittery tension to her every scene. She’s a ticking time bomb on so many levels that the last third of the movie feels like a train wreck viewed in slow motion. We can see the disaster lining up just so, but we can’t do a damn thing to stop it.