Fresh from the great success of The Wind that Shakes the Barley, his Palme d’Orwinning story of the “Irish Troubles,” Ken Loach returns to a contemporary setting with an absolute zinger of a film. Sharp, incisive, provocative and engaging, It’s a Free World… is also a wonderfully balanced piece of filmmaking from a director who has often been accused of having a political axe to grind.
It’s a Free World… is based upon the plight of Eastern European migrants who provide a cheap labour pool for wealthier European Union nations. The story centres around the brash and blonde Angie (Kierston Wareing), who is laid off from a recruiting company that brings workers from Poland to the United Kingdom. Angie persuades her flat-mate and long-time friend Rose (Juliet Ellis) to take a huge leap into the void and start their own recruiting agency. They buy a computer, create a website and, with Rose working out of their “office,” Angie sets out every day on the company’s new motorbike to build a clientele. Before long, they have a comfortable little business going. Foreign workers are easy to find, and Angie’s charm, guile and guts get them hired by contractors looking to shave costs at every turn. They know they are treading a fine line of legality, but Angie and Rose have a pact: they will only deal with legal immigrants. But, as they say, stuff happens!
No small part of the power of It’s a Free World… lies with regular Loach collaborator Paul Laverty’s carefully considered script, as well as the stunning performance delivered by newcomer Wareing as the insouciant and tousled-haired Angie. It’s a Free World… studies what happens when personal ambition rubs up against social ethics, or the lack thereof. After all, it is a free world. Loach avoids all moralizing; despite the fact that Angie is such a persuasive protagonist, she is also a complex and shaded individual in his hands. She becomes one of his greatest creations, giving this film an undeniable, compelling force.