Film: Looks and Smiles 15 rating Year: 1981
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Country: UK Genre: Drama

Director: Ken Loach

Starring: Graham Green, Tony Pitts, Carolyn Nicholson, Phil Askham

Also see our Guide to Ken Loach, or visit our Ken Loach UK or Ken Loach US stores, or see our reviews of other Ken Loach films It's A Free World, Kes, My Name Is Joe, The Navigators, Poor Cow, Raining Stones, Riff Raff, Sweet Sixteen and The Wind That Shakes The Barley.

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Looks and Smiles Synopsis - Looks and Smiles is set in an industrial city in the North of England and centres around a recent school leaver, Mick With industry in decline and unemployment rife life is tough, and getting a job is extremely difficult. Mick has a real aptitude for machinery and dreams of someone giving him a chance to become an apprentice, but he is one of hundreds who apply for such scarce opportunities. Mick's best mate Alan (along with most of their peers) is unemployed and is also desperately looking for a job. Their only relief from the drudgery and disappointment is visits to the discos and clubs in the evening, and one evening in a club Mick meets and falls for Karen, a young girl who works in a shoe shop, and they start a relationship. Mick continues to try and find a job and continues seeing Karen , whilst, with the employment situation worsening and seemingly loosing all hope of getting a job, Alan decides to join up in the army. With the pressures of unemployment, lack of money and difficult home lives to content with can Mick and Karen manage to forge the kind of life together they wish for themselves.

Review of Looks and Smiles - Looks and Smiles reunited the writing and directing team behind Kes (Barry Hines and Ken Loach respectively). It is interesting that the film draws on very similar themes to Kes and is almost an updating of the themes portrayed in Kes. Where in Kes the main theme was one of the poverty trap of the Coal Pit that the lead character would want to avoid, it is here the poverty trap attached to unemployment that befalls the lead character. This begs the question that as a society it would appear that we move on, but do we actually progress. This film is buried treasure and has only recently been released on DVD and appears only extremely infrequently on Television, which is a shame as there is so much to commend it. Looks and Smiles obviously "suffers" in that respect as it serves to remind us of the darkest days of the recession and the attitude of the Tory government to young unemployed people. The plot itself is necessarily unremarkable and fits in perfectly with Loach's quest for realism. Loach's policy of casting unknown actors (or actors without any previous experience) in his quest for realism is particularly in evident here, and his critics could argue that two of the lead actors seem to portray an element of embarrassment in their acting. But these performances are very honest and add to the realism and charm of the film. If you get a chance to see the film make sure you do as its a real rough diamond.
The reasons I recommend Looks and Smiles are: 1. A good story given plenty of breathing space by the director and actors. 2. A superb example of Ken Loach's quest for realism and authenticity in his movies. 3. A story very much of its time but in need of being told.