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‘The Old Oak’ review: Ken Loach’s farewell packs a powerful punch

If The Old Oak is Ken Loach's last film, then the socialist film icon is determined to go out with a relevant and timely voice.

3.0 rating

By Anna Smith

Ken Loach's last film sees him sign off with a powerful message

Billed as the last ever film from social realist director Ken Loach, this is a story of poverty in contemporary northeast Britain.

In recent years, Loach has focused on issues that affect modern Britain and this latest tale – which tackles the arrival of refugees in a small Northern village – is no different.

Dave Turner stars as TJ Ballantyne, the owner of a proper old boozer called The Old Oak. The only pub in the village, its spit-and-sawdust vibe extends to the regulars, many of whom eye the newly arrived Syrian refugees with suspicion. But TJ is a good guy, and he and photographer Yara (a terrific Ebla Mari) help to integrate her people into the community with a series of events.

So far, so Loach, and while the dialogue doesn’t always ring true, then the setting does. There’s no doubting the sincerity of the film’s message. This is about community, kindness and sticking together in tough times, and the ending has the power to bring a tear to the eye. If this is Loach’s parting shot, it’s truly in character and a powerful farewell from one of British filmmaking’s most distinctive and influential voices.