Saturday 29 September 2018

100 Essential Films That Deserve More Attention - 14. Ladybird, Ladybird

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to experience the escapism of a captivating story, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.

Ladybird, Ladybird
Director - Ken Loach
Country - UK
Year - 1994
Runtime - 102 Minutes

Ladybird, Ladybird is a powerful and deeply moving account of a troubled mother, Maggie Conlan, who has her children taken away from her by Social Services. Maggie has a history of falling for the wrong men and struggles to care for her four children, all fathered by different partners that have since moved on. When she meets Jorge, a Paraguayan expatriate who finds her sad demeanour intriguing and wants to help her, Maggie finds the opportunity to put her past behind her by establishing a relationship based on trust and love instead of abuse.

It eventually transpires that Jorge also has a troubled past, albeit in far different circumstances due to the political heritage of his native country. When the unlikely couple learn that they will soon become a family, Social Services intervene and both of their troubled backgrounds come under scrutiny, bringing further agitation and heartache to Maggie's already precarious outlook on life. Her cruel neighbours exacerbate Maggies' condition by appearing in court to testify against her fitness as a mother, and the relentless downward spiral of her situation seems unending.

Ken Loach's docudrama style of filming lends itself perfectly to this heart-wrenching true to life tale, providing audiences with a raw insight into the hardships of a single mother trapped in an endless cycle of abuse that stems from her childhood. We experience the emotionally draining episodes of Maggie suffering at the hands of her violent partners through flashbacks that would be too much to take without the small glimpses of hope and humour that Loach delivers in her encounters with Jorge.

Crissy Rock, who plays Maggie, invests all of her energy in a fiery and compelling performance that saw her take home the Best Actress award at both the Berlin and Chicago International Film Festivals in 1994. Her devastating portrayal of a mother pushed to the edge of her limits is anchored by Vladimir Vega's riveting representation of the sympathetic and devoted Jorge who acts as the perfect counterpoint to her volatile nature.

Ray Winstone makes a lasting impression as Simon, one of the abusive men in Maggie's past, who she turns to time and time again out of desperation and the fear of losing her children. It is these gruelling confrontations that make for the most uncomfortable viewing; battering audiences senseless with the cruelty and heartlessness of a callous man, and leaving us rooting for Maggie to find a sense of peace and happiness in her new life with Jorge.

Loach is best at his bleakest; this is as dark and disturbing as his social dramas come, and all the more devastating that it is based upon a true story. His smatterings of hope and optimism do help to ease the tension in parts but do not prevent Ladybird, Ladybird from being an exhausting experience. Films that have such a substantial impact on the audience may be difficult to sit through. However, a film that has the power to move viewers and leave them deep in thought and reflection is surely one that should be praised. If you are new to Loach then this would be a bold place to start but one that will ultimately affirm whether you are likely to appreciate the other incredible pictures that comprise his remarkable filmography.

If you take the time to watch Ladybird, Ladybird then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

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