Ken Loach’s Looks and Smiles is a somber but dramatically right tale of teenagers running into unemployment and broken families in a northern industrial town. The three protagonists are played by non-pros, and very well too.
Mick, played like a young James Cagney by Graham Green, cannot find a mechanical job he covets and spends his time getting into fights. He meets Karen (Carolyn Nicholson) and something develops, but is stymied by his love for soccer, his joblessness and own problems of divorced parents. Mick’s friend, Alan (Tony Pitts), joins the army and gets sent to Ireland and come home at times with gory tales.
The film certainly has a feel for its characters, and place, helped by a sharply dramatic use of b&w lensing which fits the milieu and theme.