The Old Oak

15 Blu-ray, DVD

When it comes to social commentary, someone who’s somewhat of a British institution in capturing it for the screen is Ken Loach.

Ever since the late sixties, the British director has been telling stories with a social political edge, and so it’s only fitting then that his latest features that other British institution, the pub.

boom reviews The Old Oak
I just don't see why you want to take a picture of me naked.

Living in a small Northern village in County Durham is TJ Ballantyne (Dave Turner), the landlord of the local pub The Old Oak. Much like the area itself, the pub has seen better days, but now is in a tired and rundown state.

The area is in the midst of an injection into the current community, with Syrian refugees being given homes there. Although some are friendly towards them, such as TJ, there is bad feeling towards them, especially from the locals of the pub.

TJ becomes friendly with one of the refugees, a young woman called Yara (Ebla Mari), and together they start to create a sense of community again, although it’s not plain sailing as they meet a fair bit of resistance, with many that aren’t best pleased with the changes that are taking place around them.

boom reviews  The Old Oak
What's wrong with this place, they can't even cook fish fingers right.

Considering the British filmmaker is now 87, you would think he has contributed more than his fair share to the British film industry. This then, written by his regular cohort Paul Laverty, is classic Loach – at least on the surface.

It’s a story about a community that hasn’t really recovered from the troubles that came from the mining in the area, and has seen a noticeable decline since then. It tackles the always flammable issue of immigration, with his usual take that is both raw and natural.

However, he may be getting a tad soft in his older age, which is surely allowed, as the film’s resolution feels unusually fake; that’s not to say it couldn’t happen, but considering the ill will shown by locals initially, it’s a somewhat sceptical turnaround, that’s not quite believable – but that probably says more about us than the film.

That said, it’s superbly crafted, that yet again features a cast that, for the most part, are not dedicated thespians, which adds to the authenticity of the piece, giving it that almost documentary-like feel. Certainly the relationship between TJ and Yara is very touching, and no one captures a sense of community on screen quite like Loach.

The film is proof however, that when it comes to themes of a British working class nature, Loach is king. And we’ll drink to that.

we give this three out of five