Wednesday, 8 June 2016


An ideal accompaniment to the works of Ken Loach, in that it illustrates that which engenders them, drives them, stands responsible for their existence. An ideal starter course for the unfamiliar audience too, for the very same reasons. Neither a biopic nor a catalogue, nor even a humdrum hybrid of the two, Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach is an intelligent, incisive essay on that very subject; like the most valuable essays, it offers up new arguments and old evidence, communicates its central thematic tenets with clarity yet covers a considerable amount of detail. Though not the political statement as which any one of Loach's own films might qualify, Versus unpacks the emotional, societal and mental motivation that first developed this most essential quality of those works. A portrait of Loach which the man himself could never have conceived, Louise Osmond's film is nevertheless the perfect counterpart to his portraits of society - drawn out as they are from the minds of the types of ordinary people depicted therein, so too does their depiction here evoke a similar tone in Osmond's enquiries, and a similar response from the viewer. The film is subtly artful and overtly compassionate, and a fantastic model for documentary filmmakers in the matter of combining those two, often seemingly mutually exclusive features. Osmond deploys a casually non-linear narrative, and dwells on certain junctures, certain films in Loach's life and career for only as long as the need to explicate a certain point remains. It's a patchy portrait, then, but smartly so, since any extra breadth might have been at the expense of depth. And, for the committed cinephile, there's always the option of exploring said breadth for oneself. Versus is, as aforementioned, the ideal accompaniment to such an endeavour.