What might strike American viewers as the most quizzical thing about Looking for Eric, Ken Loach's humble ode to soccer heroes and coming-of-middle-age in Manchester, is not its footie fixation but the unholy fuss kicked up by the possession of a single handgun. Hidden under the floorboards of the home of local postman Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) by one of his rotten stepsons, that gun causes a lot of problems. Add those to the list of less-pressing bummers—loneliness, crushing regret—that writer Paul Laverty moves us through at a drifting pace. Mixing light magical realism with a more familiar brand of working-class gloom, Loach's warm comic touch elevates the story of an aging man cracking up in plain sight. When we meet Eric, he is literally stuck in a loop: In the grip of a panic attack, he drives into a roundabout's oncoming traffic. In the aftermath of his breakdown, he revisits his first loves, soccer star Eric Cantona (who plays himself, as a figment of Eric's imagination, brilliantly) and a woman named Lily (Stephanie Bishop). It's the business with that blasted gun that forces Eric to pull himself together. Ironically—and pretty sweetly—it takes a village (or in this case, several buses of soccer buddies) to raise a full-grown man.
Cantona is perfectly cast as himself.
Runs at Northwest Film Forum, Fri., Aug. 27–Thurs., Sept. 2. Not rated. 116 minutes.