Ken Loach (The Wind That Shakes the Barley) returns with a sharp drama about illegal workers in the UK. Brassy blonde Angie (Kierston Wareing) opens her own employment agency after shes fired for complaining about sexual harassment. With long-time flatmate and friend Rose (Juliet Ellis) running the administrative side, Angie roams east London on her motorbike, attracting desperate foreign workers and landing factory and construction gigs for them. The pay is low and the jobs temporary but its money to these men who have desperate families to feed.
At first, Angie and Rose hire legal immigrants from the Middle East and Eastern Europe but as Angie makes more and more exceptions, Rose questions Angies morality: is she helping these men or exploiting them? Angie also has a son to raise by herself, who gets expelled for breaking a classmates jaw and eventually lives with Angies folks. Crisis strikes when a company skips town without paying Angie 40,000 pounds in wages and her construction labourers turn nasty.
Its A Free World is one of Loachs strongest films to date. Paul Lavertys script crackles with strong characters, mounting conflict and unexpected turns. The story moves and avoids melodrama or easy resolutions. Wareing carries the picture with a fine performance. Like all the leads, her character has many faces; she is both heroine and villain.
The cinema of Loach is one of social conscience and Its A Free World continues in this tradition by condemning the British system for luring poor foreign workers to its shores then exploiting them. Basically, its modern-day slavery and its a dismal situation that applies to Canada as well as Britain. Credit Loach for avoiding moralising and letting the drama play out. (Sixteen)