Based on a harrowing true story and fueled by a blistering, full-throttle performance from newcomer Crissy Rock, Ken Loach's LADYBIRD, LADYBIRD reconfirms his status as dean and foremost exponent of the British tradition of social realism.
In a London pub, good-hearted but headstrong Maggie (Crissy Rock), a working-class Liverpudlian, meets Jorge (Vladimir Vega), a political exile from Paraguay. Charmed by his gentle earnestness, she agrees to go home with him and, in the wee hours, confides that she's been in a series of abusive
relationships, most recently with Simon, who proved so violent that she sought refuge for herself and her four children--each fathered by a different man--at a women's shelter. Later, while Maggie is singing at a pub, her eldest son, Sean (Jason Stracey), is seriously burned; she had locked the
kids in their room to protect them from strangers, leaving them no means of escape from the flames. Sean is promptly placed in a foster home, while Maggie's remaining three children are taken from her and placed on the "at risk" register of the Social Services Department. Told that she can only be
reunited with them if she agrees to live in a family center, Maggie acquiesces, but abruptly changes her mind and returns to the loutish Simon (Ray Winstone). She persuades Simon to flee from the authorities, but he quickly turns violent and drives off with the terrified children, only to be
intercepted by the police. Hoping to reclaim her kids, Maggie testifies in court, but she's refused custody and they're put up for adoption.
Maggie begins a relationship with Jorge and quickly becomes pregnant. The happily expectant couple move into a council flat, Jorge finds menial employment, and things seem to be going well. But when a health specialist and then a social worker come to visit Maggie and her baby girl, she warily
refuses to let them in. The social worker confers with Mrs. Higgs, a malicious neighbor who slanders Maggie and Jorge. The police promptly confiscate the infant, and the couple's relationship is scrutinized by Social Services. When their case comes up, Mrs. Higgs (Pamela Hunt) falsely testifies
that Jorge beats Maggie. Jorge takes the witness stand to testify on Maggie's behalf, only to admit that he still has a wife back in Paraguay. Furthermore, his visa has recently expired, and he's immediately served with a deportation order. Characterized by the court as an individual of low
intellect and little self-control, Maggie loses her fifth child.
Then, surprisingly, Jorge receives a British passport, while Maggie discovers that she's pregnant again. But no sooner has Maggie given birth--she's still laid up in her hospital bed--than Social Services swoops in to take the baby girl. Despite strains on their relationship--she's furious at him
for not doing more to prevent their child's abduction--Maggie and Jorge remain together. A postscript informs viewers that they've been allowed to keep three other children, but they have no access to their first two, or to the offspring of Maggie's previous relationships.
Since his 1967 feature debut, POOR COW, Loach has quietly but firmly established himself as one of Britain's most important filmmakers. Like his compatriot Mike Leigh, he wears his left-wing social consciousness on his creative sleeve, but rarely pushes political content at the expense of
cinematic form. Although the urge to root against the film's dispassionate Social Services employees is immediate, Loach takes care not to demonize them, nor is Maggie herself portrayed as anything like a perfect mother. Though fiercely loving, she's also erratic, tempestuous, and occasionally
violent. Children, the put-upon Social Services workers reason, need more than love: they need support and security.
Rock, a British stand-up comedienne who won the Silver Bear for her performance at the 1994 Berlin Film Festival, commands attention from the opening sequence, when she steps up to a microphone and croons a sentimental ballad. Although she's no beauty, classical or otherwise, it's easy to see why
men find Maggie attractive; she may be volatile, but she's also an earthy sensualist and a powerful life-force. In addition, Maggie's a sexual renegade who sleeps for pleasure with men of color and has no use for birth control. As a result, she's perceived by the authorities as a threat to the
social order, and for this she pays a heavy price indeed. (Graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Based on a harrowing true story and fueled by a blistering, full-throttle performance from newcomer Crissy Rock, Ken Loach's LADYBIRD, LADYBIRD reconfirms his status as dean and foremost exponent of the British tradition of social realism. In a London pu… (more)