A fter 55 years of directing modern classics including Kes, Carla’s Song, and I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach makes what he says will likely be his final film. Set during the cultural assault course of 2016, The Old Oak is about a pub in County Durham, set amid rising tensions as Syrian refugees are welcomed to their small community.
It’s a passionate tale from one of Britain’s most fiery filmmakers. The script creates an interesting dynamic where locals who feel abandoned are resentful of newcomers whom they feel have been taken care of, while ignoring the horrors that have forced the Syrians to take refuge in Britain. There are no easy answers, but the importance of solidarity is a message throughout.
The dialogue can be heavy-handed, particularly because the ensemble features a mixture of professional and first-time actors, but as a swan song the tale of small-town strife sums up everything the filmmaker has stood for during more than half a century. No matter your feelings about Ken Loach, that’s a consistency that you can’t help but admire.