George (Carlyle) falls for Carla (Cabezas) when he meets her in Glasgow. Pursuing her to her home country of Nicaragua, he finds himself caught in the US war against the Sandinistas
Like his previous two films, Ladybird Ladybird and Land And Freedom, Ken Loach continues to look outside the concerns of his home country with Carla's Song. This time the movie shifts from Glasgow to war-torn Nicaragua, boasting all the director's trademark verisimilitude both in locale and performance.
Set in 1987, the movie begins in Glasgow with bus driver George (Carlyle), meeting and falling for a young girl on his bus who can't afford the fare. Despite her initial reluctance and mysterious ways, George pursues Carla (Cabezas) round Glasgow before she acquiesces to their mutual feelings. George learns that she is a refugee from Nicaragua, where her former lover remains trapped. In order to understand her better and to verify her love for him, George travels back to her war torn country in the brutal days of the Contras' last hurrah against the Sandinista government.
Loach displays a unique sensibility that tends to flourish best in a British milieu. Thus the more involving moments here are the early ones in Glasgow, with Carlyle displaying a winning brand of strength and vulnerability, that really demands your empathy for the character. Shifting to Nicaragua, the film depicts graphically the inhuman crime of the war, most notably in American exile Scott Glenn's impassioned speech about the conflict's CIA funding.
Loach clearly has an agenda and his characters suffer for it. Admittedly, individuals are often lost against the bigger picture of a war and maybe that's his point, but here it leaves you with a film that veers dangerously close to preaching. And with a Ken Loach audience that's definitely preaching to the converted.