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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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The start of this film is typical Ken Loach. Real people living real life in a film so drenched in reality that it could have been filmed using hidden cameras in Glasgow.

Loach does something on screen that I've never seen any other director do. He manages to get performances so realistic that you feel compelled to stay tuned to see what happens - a bit like a soap opera, but good. You genuinely feel for the characters and believe that they exist - this is especially important for a Loach film as they tend to be politically charged - and the people involved HAVE to feel real in order for the politics to matter.

The first part of this film is set in Glasgow and shows how the Jack-the-lad bus driver George lets an exotic looking passenger (Carla) escape from his bus after she is shouted down by a ticket inspector. She snook onto the bus and has no ticket, George defends her and pays the 40p himself for her a ticket.

She later sees him and thanks him, she even gives him a present for his act of kindness. From that moment on George is intrigued by her and through his persistence they start to develop a friendship. George even `borrows' his bus for a romantic walk in the Scottish countryside.

Robert Carlisle is nothing short of fantastic in this film. His natural charisma helps carry the character of George, and he portrays all the frustration and anger the character has in a touching way.

Carla's suicide attempt, post-traumatic stress, and knowledge that she has a difficult past help George build a strong protective instinct for her. They become lovers and then the film takes a dramatic cinematic shift.

The rest of the film is based in Nicaragua where revolution is all around and Carla must face her demons. Here we see Carla come out of her shell as she begins to feel more comfortable about herself. We she an almost childlike innocence about her and sympathise about the unspoken horrific event which she is so rocked by. They search for her friend and former lover Antonio.

Oyanka Cabezas manages to put across the vulnerability and independence of the mysterious Carla in an equally touching way.

Whilst in Nicaragua they find Bradley - a former associate of Carla and a US worker over there. Bradley played by Alien's Scot Glen provides the mouthpiece for the political teachings of the film. His character is difficult to like initially, but you always feel that this is because he is embittered by people's lack of understanding of the appalling situation in Nicaragua. It is he who explains how the Americans have effectively sponsored the killings of innocent people. Glen acts well in the role, but he seems to stick out like a sore thumb when compared to the more naturalistic acting of the rest of the cast.

I'm not going to discuss the plot any further, but there are scenes with Robert Carlisle which glued me to the screen. His exchange of T-shirts at a bar in Nicaragua was such a powerful scene and couldn't help but make you love George even more.

The film doesn't feel as preachy as other reviews have made out - but it does certainly feel a bit all over the place at times. As if it's trying to cover more than it can in the time it has.

If it wasn't for the strength of Robert Carlisle's performance I'd have maybe given this three stars (as I can't give it 3.5), but because he was so enigmatic during the whole feature - I've given this a four.
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I watched Ken Loach's "Kes"(69) many years ago, and was mightily impressed. I still chuckle at the memory of the football scene. It was probably the first film that awoke a social conscience in me. I remember wanting to put on a flat cap, shout ecky thump and head north to where the real men lived. Remarkably the evergreen Loach is still at it, even though he qualified for his free bus pass some time ago. He has always been politically engaged and has sought to educate us about political conflicts. In the case of "Carla's Song"(98), it was about the civil war in Nicaragua.

The film is a rather flimsy story of love between a rebellious Glasgow bus driver, played by Robert Carlyle, and Carla a Nicaraguan woman trying to escape from the horrors of her past. The two slowly try to build a relationship, but this is constantly hampered by Carla's past experiences. I am reminded of words from the Bob Dylan song "Tangled up in Blue". "Then all the while I was alone, the past was close behind". Carlyle decides that the only way to excise the demons is to take Carla back to her homeland, and try to find the answers to haunting questions. This puts them into the danger zone as they seek Carla's family and an old lover. We head to a bittersweet finale. Will true love win the day?

As a love story the film does not quite work for me. The relationship is a little contrived and unlikely. The story itself lacks any real structure and is just a means for Loach to fall back on his common themes of politics gone sour, and mans inhumanity to man. Robert Carlyle is excellent in the lead role. That solid American actor Scott Glenn turns up improbably in the guise of an ex CIA man now batting for the other side. He even picks up a gun for the cause, which reminded me of his role in the western "Silverado". I just had to get some reference to my beloved westerns in! The film does contain some nice scenes, most notably when Carlyle takes Carla on a trip to the hills above Loch Lomond in his double decker bus.

But the love story takes second place to the politics. Franklin D Roosevelt supposedly said in 1939 of the Nicaraguan dictator Somoza, who was perceived to be anti communist, "He may be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch". The quote has often been used for those that back unjust causes for misguided reasons. The US backed the Contras who were the last struggling embers of the Samoza days, thus prolonging an agonising conflict. In 1984 they were taken to the world court in the Hague where they were ordered to pay 17 billion dollars as compensation for illegal military intervention. I am not being political here, merely stating the facts. Mr Loach has, through the medium of film, made me much more aware of what actually took place in Nicaragua. Politics and films do not always mix in the wrong hands, but in the hands of Loach it works perfectly. He wears his heart on his sleeve as they say. I was both educated and entertained. A happy mix. Recommended.
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on 22 September 2010
It is 1987 and George (played by Robert Carlyle) a young bus driver in Glasgow picks up a Nicaraguan refugee (played by Oyanka Cabezas) and when she does not pay her fare he protects her from the onslaught of the ticket inspector and pays the fare himself. They later come into contact and he finds she is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of her experiences in Nicaragua where she is a supporter of the Sandanistas which is fighting the US backed Contras. They fall in love and he saves her life when she attempts suicide by cutting her wrists and George is also told in the hospital that this was her second suicide attempt. In an effort to lay the ghosts of her past they go to Nicaragua, make contact with her family, get caught up in the fighting and the outcome for both of them is dramatic and life changing.

Carlyle and Cabezas (who is from Nicaragua and a dancer) are both superb in the main roles and, as always, Ken Loach produces a gem of a film that is fresh, original, mature, intelligent and dramatic. The film was made not long after the conflict so the scenes shot in Nicaragua have an authentic feel about them and Loach stages the scenes there brilliantly. Films of this quality made from a left wing perspective are difficult to make as film companies are not usually keen to fund such projects and tend to stick with familiar tried and tested themes which is maybe why so many films made these days are unoriginal, predictable and bland but this seems to be what the public wants which I think is a pretty sad state of affairs.
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on 25 September 2015
Absolutely brilliant no probs with discs excellent & prompt service as 4 the film u have 2 see it I enjoyed it but then again I haven't seen Robert Carlyle in any bad films brilliant all the way through a must have 4 any collection
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 June 2012
Ken Loach's 1996 film Carla's Song is another example of the trademark Loach mix of politics, romance and comedy, on this occasion focusing on the political situation in Nicaragua during the 1980s, as the elected Sandanista government was engaged in a war with the US-backed Contra insurgency in their country. Interestingly, the film was also the first collaboration between Loach and (his now regular) screenwriter Paul Laverty, who had worked in Nicaragua during the early 1980s as a human rights lawyer.

Given this background, Carla's Song therefore fits into the group of films that Loach has made which have a more international scope such as Land And Freedom, Bread And Roses and The Wind That Shakes The Barley. In general, for me, these films tend to be some of Loach's least successful, primarily because of the fickle (and, at times, opaque) nature of international politics, plus the more ambitious production values that such subjects inevitably require. Carla's Song also rather suffers as a result of these factors, but, notwithstanding this, has many things to commend it. Of course, such potential limitations are not a reason not to attempt to produce films on such subjects.

Carla's Song is essentially divided in two parts. The first (and, for me, the most successful section of the film) is set in Glasgow (something of a home-from-home for Loach in his more recent films) and covers the initial encounters between disillusioned bus driver George (the always reliable Robert Carlyle) and Nicaraguan 'refugee' Carla (played by first-time Nicaraguan actress Oyanka Cabezas). The second part of the film is set in Nicaragua, as George and Carla travel there in order for Carla to confirm what has happened to her family and friends. For me, this section is less successful than the UK-based segment as it is simply too ambitious (particularly with a production budget the size of Loach's) in its attempt to communicate the scale (and impact) of the political struggle taking place.

On the acting front, as well as another solid Carlyle performance, and a remarkably assured one from Cabezas, Loach (for the Glasgow-based scenes) cast (for the first time) the brilliant Gary Lewis as George's co-worker Sammy and Louise Goodall as George's erstwhile intended Maureen - Goodall went on, of course, to deliver an outstanding (and more extensive) performance in Loach's later masterpiece My Name Is Joe. The early section of the film is peppered with typically hilarious Loach scenes, featuring George as bus driver, as he variously antagonises bus inspectors and taxi drivers, and then (in effect) hijacks the bus in order to take Carla on a romantic backroads picnic excursion to the banks of Loch Lomond. For the American-based part of the film, Loach cast Hollywood actor Scott Glenn as an ex-CIA human aid worker (an interesting concept, certainly), and Glenn delivers a solid performance.

The other slight reservation I have with the film is that (for me) it rather over-sentimentalises George and Carla's relationship. Nevertheless, this is an ambitious attempt to cover a complex subject and, for that, Loach should again be congratulated.
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on 21 March 2009
Brilliant film - very moving and will stay with me for a long time - thoroughly recommend it .
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on 15 July 2012
As one of my favourite films, even before purchase, 'Carla's Song' is a moving and very real story highlighting the struggle of refugees, and those still living in Nicaragua. Robert Carlyle lends himself to the character of George Lennox, a bus driver in Glasgow, and the development of his kind and caring character is tested by the harsh realities he faces when he takes Carla (Oyanka Cabezas), a Nicaraguan exile who becomes his lover, back to Nicaragua to find her mysterious boyfriend 'Antonio'.

It's a film that is certainly worth watching, with beautiful acting and great direction full of the colour of Nicaragua and the reality of the lives they must lead. :D
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on 9 January 2009
Robert Carlyle in this film is better than I've ever seen him.
He possesses a gritty realism that enables him to play working class character parts like few others.
He plays the part of disgruntled bus driver George who sticks up for a female passenger (Carla), who is getting the works from a jobsworth bus conductor for bunking on the bus, who refuses George's offer to pay her fare and let the matter slide. But the conductor wants none of it and wants to prosecute the girl.
Carlyle allows the girl to flee the bus and shuts the door immediately, barring the conductor from chasing her.
He duly gets reported and a final warning is issued to him over his conduct.

A few days later the girl appears outside Carlyle's home and gives him a small gift as a thank-you for what he did for her.
Carlyle becomes infatuated with the lovely Carla and initiates further contact with her.

It soon becomes apparent that Carla has personal problems that haunt her from her Nicaraguan past. Where this might frighten some men away, Carlyle(George) is drawn only deeper in.

He packs in his job, or is sacked, its not clear after he clears the bus one day of its passengers and takes Carla on the bus to Loch Lomond for a day out. He also chucks his girlfriend and buys two tickets for himself and Carla to go to Nicaragua, realising that Carla needs to confront the demons from her past that have her waking in the night, screaming and terrified.

He knows that something awful happened to her old Nicaraguan boyfriend, Antonio ( a sandanistan) when captured by the Contra's during the Civil war in that country. He also realizes that he and Carla perhaps have no future without laying the past to rest.

So to Nicaragua they go and get caught up in the war, where the film stresses to show that the whole conflict is funded and controlled by the CIA ( which many people have always believed anyway).
Carla does indeed meet Antonio again, and for the ending you simply should see the film.

It's a cracker from start to finish, all the acting and casting is superb, typical of ken Loach films.
Carlyle is fantastic and one of the very finest and most versatile actors of his generation.
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on 6 March 2010
This has to be one of Ken Loach's finest movies. He exposes the American backed counter insurgency against the democratically elected and Socialist government of Nicaragua. Anybody interested in finding out how the long arms of US imperialism choked a country to near death must see this movie.

Saying that it is also a timeless love story that inspires us all.
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on 27 October 2012
Really fabulous film - one I would highly reccomend. The drama is quite interesting and the plot different to many of the usual films we see nowadays. Loved it from start to finish.
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