Far removed from the boisterous, dryly comic Raining Stones, Ken Loach’s Ladybird Ladybird is a tough, steam-rolling, semi-verite look at a (non-) family life in 1990s Britain through the eyes of a battered but ballsy unmarried mother caught between her own willfulness and an intrusive nanny state.
Pic is propelled by a natural, gutsy performance by newcomer Crissy Rock. In tone and content, Loach hasn’t directed anything this emotionally powerful since his earlier work of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Based on a true story, pic has Maggie (Rock), a tough Liverpudlian mother of four, meeting gentle Paraguayan Jorge (Vladimir Vega) in a London bar where she sings. The pair bond fast with flashbacks pasting in Maggie’s history, first as a child with an abusive father and later as a battered mother forced to move into a women’s refuge. Relationship is cranked into a higher gear by the news that she’s expecting another child.
Loach then progressively tightens the screws as the authorities take her baby girl into care, Jorge gets heat from the immigration authorities after his visa expires, and the relationship comes under strain as Maggie’s insecurities resurface.
A Liverpool standup comedian with no acting experience, Rock exudes a no-nonsense, working-class sensibility, moving easily from acerbic Meseyside wit to sequences of emotional violence that carry a docu charge.