Sunday, 12 January 2014

Bread and Roses (2000)

Bread and Roses, Ken Loach's first and only foray into American film making is a transition which sees him never once lose his footing. The fervour and compassion he shows in highlighting the social issues and inequalities in the UK are equally on display here as he tells the true life story of the LA based 'Justice for Janitors' campaign to unionise and fight for better working conditions for its lowly paid largely female and immigrant workforce.

At the film's heart is the fine performances by Pilar Padilla and Elpidia Carrillo as sisters Maya and Rosa. In the former's case, Loach once again shows an adept flair at coaxing impressive but utterly realistic performances from largely novice performers (this was Padilla's first film and she carries the emotion of it beautifully) The scene towards the end where both sisters have to face up to the lies they have lived with to survive is rightly heartbreaking and magnificently played. The film's only top drawer name (bar some uncredited appearances from the likes of Tim Roth, Benicio Del Toro and Ron Perlman as themseles at a party) is Adrien Brody as the campaign's leader, Sam Shapiro. I've never really been impressed with Brody in anything but there's a certain mischief and wise assed charm here that is I must concede right for the role.

It's worth remembering that even now in this day and age in my own UK cleaners are employed by cut price contractors to work in large organisations up to and including the NHS (whose foundations lie in socialism) on zero hour contracts for below the living wage, their right to organise withheld from them and are expected to be grateful for the chance to earn a living because they are immigrants or the disadvantaged in society. Unions like Unite have been running Justice for Cleaners campaigns since the mid 00s based on this successful US model - but the fight has a long way to go yet,  sadly.

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