Whenever Ken Loach has a new film in the works, you can bet your bottom dollar it will premiere at Cannes. The Brit director and master of kitchen sink realism has been a Cannes Competition mainstay since “Black Jack” won the fest’s coveted FIPRESCI Prize in 1979. “Jimmy’s Hall,” his latest, will make its way to the Croisette this week. But will it be his last? (Trailer below.)
In 2012, his admirable if saccharine crime comedy “The Angels’ Share” snapped up the Jury Prize, and in 2006 he won the Palme d’Or for the Irish historical drama “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” starring Cillian Murphy. Penned by longtime collaborator Paul Laverty, “Jimmy’s Hall” will of course be competing for the Palme, and it marks Loach’s return to the period piece: it’s a portrait of Irish communist and activist James Gralton (played by Barry Ward) who became a US citizen in 1909 after becoming the only Irishmen ever to be deported from the Emerald Isle.
Last year, producer Rebecca O’Brien told Screen Daily that “Jimmy’s Hall” will likely be Loach’s final film, though he has “a few documentary ideas kicking around.” For his departure, Loach wanted to craft a serious-minded, deeply moving drama firmly rooted in history.
If this is, indeed, his last film, he’ll certainly be missed, not only at Cannes but within the filmmaking community. At the Riviera Maya Film Festival in Mexico earlier this year, Peter Sarsgaard said that of all living directors, Loach is the one he’d like to work with most.
But who knows? Directors come in and out of retirement all the time, and he may go the Soderbergh route and find other creative outlets for his storied vision.