For better or for worse, Ken Loach has always been one of British cinema's most socially conscious filmmakers. In 'It's a Free World...', Loach casts his eye on the employment of foreign workers (some legal, some otherwise) in present-day Britain. The film centers around an employment agency set up by Angie (a fantastic Kierston Waering) a young single mother unfairly sacked from her job finding work for Polish workers, and her friend Rose (Juliet Ellis), a University graduate tired of her dead-end job. They begin offering manual labour to unemployed emigrants, but, keen to increase their cash flow and keep their workforce from making demands upon them, Angie gets involved in the murky world of employing illegal immigrants. Rose becomes troubled by the risks, and gradually, things begin to falter around them. The tale is told with a sombre accuracy and commendable lack of schmalzy sentimentality by Loach (at least outside of a few incidents in the film's latter half), and Wareing, Ellis, and Leslaw Jurek - as Angie's romantic part-time boyfriend Karol - all put in superb displays.
Though the film as a whole is both unflinchingly truthful and raises important questions over identity, dignity, and the 'true' worth of money, there are a few missteps in the film. Loach lays the melodrama on rather thickly during the last half hour (though that's not to say this part of the film isn't moving), and the film does drag a little in places. Elsewhere, Loach fails to fill out a few reasonably promising characters, such as Angie's father; supportive, yet increasingly worried by her decision making. Still, this is a thought provoking, often gripping, and expertly acted work. Gone are the slightly bungled sentimentality and simplistic moral messages of some of Loach's earlier work, and this is to the credit of 'It's a Free World...'. If you're looking for a gritty and satisfying portrayal of the struggles and strife of Modern day Britain, and the way relationships and attitudes develop and change, I would highly recommend this film.