The Old Oak (2023)

The Old Oak (2023)

Ken Loach’s farewell film is a heart-wrenching celebration of community

7.9

Movie

Belgium, France
Arabic, Dutch, English
Drama
2023
KEN LOACH
Chris McGlade, Claire Rodgerson, Col Tait
113 min

TLDR

It’s not the British director’s best, but it’s a fittingly heartbreaking swan song.

What it's about

Tensions rise when Syrian refugees arrive in a Northeastern English town already struggling to get back on its feet. Still, pub owner TJ Ballantyne (Dave Turner) and local activists try their best to bridge the gap between the disgruntled locals and fearful newcomers.

The take

Renowned British director Ken Loach’s signature traits are present in The Old Oak: simple, humanistic, and unapologetically hopeful. But this time, we see things unfold through the eyes of Turner’s TJ and Ebla Mari’s Yara, whose endearing friendship anchors the film. They prove that seemingly conflicting things can coexist, like workers’ and immigrants’ rights, local and newcomer needs, old and new ideals. Loach hones in on his characters’ rich and specific lives so that his message doesn’t come across like an advocacy poster, but a richly woven tapestry filled with beautiful and complex meanings. Because it tackles heavy themes, The Old Oak might sound like it’d be heavy to watch, but as in most of the director’s work, you’ll no sooner be uplifted by an outpouring of hope and love.

What stands out

I’m still hoping Loach has it in him to create one more film - he’s needed more than ever!

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