When I was 17 I saw Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen. My introduction to cinematic realism, my mind was blown. In the months that followed I devoured Loach’s back catalogue and, for the first time, consciously sought out new and innovative films and genres that I’d never experienced. I was mesmerised by seeing a film where the protagonist, the script and the story captured the working class with such truth and grit. Before long I was developing a deep passion for cinema from across the world and familiarising myself with the great masters such as Scorsese, Allen and Leigh – but it all started with Loach. My love for cinema began with British film at a time when Shane Meadows was appearing on the scene and reinvigorating the landscape. I have forgotten what my life was like before Loach but I’ll always remember the moment I first encountered his work. Louise Osmond now brings us a fitting tribute to the man and director in bio-doc Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach. Jumping from recent footage of Loach and his team, including loyal Producer Rebecca O’Brien, on the set of I, Daniel Blake to archive footage and photographs of Loach and his cinematic archive, Osmond has captured the man, the director but, most importantly, the activist.
The production footage of Loach’s latest film is made even more joyous with his recent triumph at Cannes. Loach is nearly 80 and has come out of retirement to make one last film as a response to the election of the Conservative party in May 2015. Osmond’s documentary addresses this fact immediately, looking closely at Loach’s political drive which has always fuelled his work. Versus flows eloquently from film to film and from year to year with Loach himself feeling ever present in the film. His approach to character, performance and his actors is deconstructed nicely in between discussions of his life’s chronology. Both his television and cinematic work are discussed and Osmond doesn’t shy away from discussions about mistakes and regrets, bringing sincerity and complexity to the celebration. Versus looks at the constant obstacles faced by Loach’s socialist work and the drive and determination he maintains below his quiet exterior. More than anything else, Versus highlights the power that comes from Loach’s quietness. As the film proves, Loach had a quiet power which is rare, impressive and relentless. Versus is brave, brash and detailed – much like the man himself.
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