When Angie (Kierston Wareing) gets the sack from a recruitment agency, she teams up with her flatmate to run a similar business from their kitchen. Soon immigrants desperate to work turn up and the partners discover there's some serious money to be made.
When a new Ken Loach film comes out, reviewers generally gen
up on the newspaper headlines rather than brush up on their cinema theory. Sure enough, with It’s A Free World, the country’s most socially conscious filmmaker has once again tackled a current issue - immigration - but has also approached it from a fresh angle that makes the problem feel new and unexpected.
The film centres around Angie (newcomer Kierston Wareing), a recruitment agency worker who specialises in bringing in workers from Eastern Europe to the UK. Although she’s good at her job, she
is sacked after publicly objecting to an incident of sexual harassment, and subsequently decides to set up her own agency with a friend. But her determination to make a success of her company soon overshadows any good intentions she had towards her immigrant workers, and she starts to treat them with the same disrespect and abuse that her former employers and current contacts treat her.
The result is a reminder that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and a layered and complex character study of Angie, with Wareing on career-making form. By turns brazen and charming, well-meaning and monstrous, Angie is the sort of fully-fleshed-out (anti-) heroine role that any sensible actress should kill for but only newcomers seem to attempt. It’s clear that Angie’s role as victim
has led her into corruption, but that doesn’t make her any more justified in the things that she does.
The film does take an ill-advised turn into thriller territory towards the end, but then perhaps that’s necessary to give some shape to the narrative.
What’s clear is that poverty and desperation can twist anyone’s best intentions, and that the law, in this case, lags far behind the morality of the situation.
Ken Loach's latest deserves plaudits for taking on the issue of immigration from such an unexpected angle.