Director Ken Loach, who was at the festival last year with The Wind That Shakes the Barley, has returned with It's a Free World, a look at the underground market for immigrant and illegal workers in Britain. At the centre of this story is Angie (played by Kierston Wareing), a single mother who, fed up with working for others and sacked from her latest job, sets out to establish her own employment agency with her friend Rose.
Angie, whose constantly grandiose dreams often fall by the wayside, including to some extent her own son, struggles to establish herself. Along the way, her challenges start forcing her to make compromises between her sympathy for the workers and her own problems and ambitions. The film gives a rather bleak look at the hardships faced by those searching for a new and better life in another country, only to find a system more than ready to take advantage of them at every turn.
Wareing, in her first feature film (her previous credits include an episode of the UK mystery series Wire in the Blood), gives a strong, natural performance as Angie. The film is pretty much hers to carry as it is mainly Angie's story on offer. You can see Angie's descent as she becomes more and more willing to skirt and bend the rules, making little concessions until she finds herself miles away from where she started. It's kind of a heartbreaking film to watch, and may make you think about the price you pay (and not in a monetary sense) for cheap products.
Kierston Wareing did a Q&A after the film:
- Wareing was about to give up acting after a 10-year struggle. She was studying to be a legal secretary and had two months left in her course when she got a call from her agent saying Ken Loach wanted to meet her. She auditioned between May and August and finally got the part.
- The film was shot in east London, Poland, and Ukraine. They shot in Poland and Ukraine even though it was not necessary (you can't tell from the shots), which kept it as real as possible.
- Wareing said that it was incredible to work with Loach because he's such a genius, and is a nice man, very down-to-earth. He can related to virtually anyone, from young to old. He directs very easily; everything is black and white. He has a fantastic sense of humour, so they had a ball on the set.
- She didn't have much of a chance to interact with anyone outside of the context of the film, since she was so busy, being in virtually every shot of the movie.
- Wareing definitely doesn't agree with Angie's actions in the film; she hopes that people in this business take a second thought about what they are doing.
- Despite the natural tone of the movie and dialogue, very little was ad-libbed. It was about 90% scripted.
- Wareing got portions of the script every day; she didn't know what was going to happy to Angie at the end of the movie. She received her first cut of the script when she was flying to Poland on the first day of the film; Loach handed her the pages and told her to read them for tomorrow. On the first shooting day, she was in an assembly hall for supporting artists, and she felt overwhelmed. But she's glad Loach threw her into the deep end as it made everything else easier.
- When she got the part, Loach just told her to get her motorcycle license (and she hates motor bikes). Then, he told her she was going to set up her own business, and that she had a son (she doesn't have any children in real life). She asked for the script, but he said no and told her not to worry about it.
- Wareing said that apparently Loach works this way on all his films.
- On an average scene, Loach likes to get two good takes. A lot of the scenes are cut into short parts.
Possible minor spoliers below:
- Wareing likes to think that if the movie continued on past the end, Angie would stay on the same course and just get more ruthless.
- For the scene where she's attacked in her house, when she first read the script, her only line was 'Jamie, where are you?' She asked if that was really her only line, and thought it might be an easy day of shooting. She said her line, and then got jumped on by the men. They had been rehearsing with the stunt coordinator all day, but she didn't know that. She apparently collapsed in the first shot of the scene, which Loach loved, but Wareing said she didn't even remember doing that.