From the illustrious Director Ken Loach comes a story about the last pub standing in an impoverished village, the man who owns it, Syrian refugees and a disgruntled community struggling to recover from the demise of the mining industry. Set in the north of England, TJ Ballantyne struggles to keep his pub The Old Oak , open in a once thriving community. Amidst struggles, anger and resentment enters a group of Syrian refugees who are housed in the village. Life is disrupted and the community feels they have become a forgotten dumping ground for refugees. Tensions surface and racism raises its ugly head. However a growing friendship between Yara, a young refugee, and TJ the owner of the pub might just be what the town needs to find a new life and regain its heart
Winner - Audience Award, Locarno International Film Festival 2023 and Nominee - Palme d’Or, Cannes Film Festival 2023, this 113 min long film is rated MA15+ and will be in cinemas 30 November 2023. Directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty, the film stars Dave Turner as TJ Ballantyne the pub owner, Ebla Mari as Yara the young refugee, Claire Rodgerson as TJ's old friend Laura, and Trevor Fox as Charlie, who went to school with TJ.
TJ Ballantyne is a middle-aged landlord and proprietor of a pub in a working-class village. The people who come into his pub are known to him and some were in school with him. Despite their business, he's barely scraping by and hanging on to his livelihood by the fingernails. Enter Yara who has just arrived with her family from Syria, clutching at the most valuable thing she owns, her camera. Immediately heckled by the villagers, one smashes her camera, and onlooker TJ feels bad about it. He offers her some old cameras he has in the back room. This is the beginning of a growing friendship that leads to a collaboration that may unite everyone. It's not going to be easy as the pub regulars want to hold a town meeting to vent about the new arrivals who are so different to them. The back room of the pub being the only space they can use for a town gathering, they are refused by TJ who tells them it's unsafe. Yet comes the time when inspired by a slogan his mother always believed - "when you eat together, you stick together"; he opens the back room up as a communal dining area. He feeds the masses with donated food items, filling the bellies of all in need; refugees and struggling locals alike for free, sparking ugliness to rise to the fore.
This is a well-told story that's powerful and poignant. It's fiercely humanistic in that there are no immediate villains here. It gives you an understanding of both sides of the coin. The scenes of hostility and what drove it are presented without apology, however, it's not overplayed, making it very credible in this heart-wrenching story of humanity. It's quietly and deeply moving and masterfully told. It starts off strong and continues, till I began to wonder how the heightened situations of anger were going to be resolved with just a few short minutes left of the film. Was the resolution too quick and easy? You decide. The one thing that's unquestionable is how touching the film is, layered with more than the surface shown in the trailer. This typically, beautifully filmed British movie, with a cast that doesn't disappoint, is definitely worth a look.