Wednesday, February 18, 2009
It's A Free World. Feature film. (2007, 97 mins) IMDB
ngela is no angel. At the start of the movie she works for a temp agency that goes to Eastern Europe to find people who want to work in England. The recruits pay money, get terrible transportation and roach-infested rooming, crappy jobs and eventually go back home the worse for the ordeal. Meanwhile the recruiters have pocketed substantial income. It's a modern day slave trade.
Angela worked at this agency until shortly into this film she is fired. The inciting incident. Since she's good at this job, she realizes she can start her own agency and with the help of roommate she does just that. Over night The Angie and Rose Agency is created.
She talks with immigrant workers about working. She talks with businesses about hiring them and before you know it, the business is a success. They even come up with a way to make even more money. Rent a house for 250 pounds a month and rent out four rooms for 50 pounds a week. The math is staggering.
But it can't all go well.
The first bump in the road is her son. She's a single mother. Her son is 11 years old and lives with her parents. He's also violent--broke a fellow student's jaw. While she says she cares about her son, she never spends any time with him except when meeting with school officials over disciplinary matters.
In the first half of the film, while she's a leech and manipulative, she carries on her business within the law--that is she only deals with legal workers. Workers from EU countries with the right paperwork, but an Iranian man changes that.
He comes to her for work, but she flatly refuses because he's an illegal immigrant. In that lowbrow accent she has, she tells him to bugger off, but when she sees where he lives with his wife and two daughters, she decides to help. The next thing you know she's arranging for illegal passports and work for these men. They want the job and she wants the money she gets for each worker.
Now there's even more money coming in.
Her roommate was with her when the workers were legal, but the next step is too much and they split. Angie is on her own.
Time for more trouble. A construction site where she placed a number of workers isn't paying her which means she can't pay the workers. The workers are upset. There is no resolution from her point of view except to say: I'm sorry. That isn't good enough for these Polish workers.
One night while she's watching a movie with her son, he goes to answer the door for a pizza delivery and doesn't return. (The son is only there for plot purposes otherwise he's out of the picture). She can't find him. After a quick search of the neighbourhood, she is greeted by three masked men. Men who weren't paid. They beat her up, steal her stash of money and demand future payments to clear the debt. They also threaten harm to her son.
Because she has gotten herself into illegal activities, she feels she can't go to the police. She has to make the money somehow and travels to Kiev in the Ukraine to sign up recruits who will work in England. It's were the film started in terms of what she was doing with her previous employer. What's interesting is that in this final scene, we see a middle-aged and desperate woman meet with Angie. The woman has high hopes of a great new life in England. We know what she doesn't know. It's a scam. Angie listens and smiles and takes the wad of money from the woman.
There was a moment of hesitation as if Angie was touched by the woman's story and would make an excuse that she's not appropriate, keep your money, but no. Angie is ruthless and we really hate her. The movie ends on that note. I thought there might be a change, but it didn't come. Under the circumstances, a change of character, of heart, wouldn't be realistic.
While Angie is the protagonist of this story, she is an anti-hero. There isn't much we like about her. She lies. She cheats. She's selfish. She has no qualms with taking money from people who have no money. And if she wasn't threatened, she never would have made good on the pay the workers didn't get.
She is probably a sociopath--someone to stay clear of except it's not always easy to tell when you meet one.
Posted 2009/02/18 at 18h01ET in Movie Commentary.