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Ebla Mari and Dave Turner in The Old Oak (IMDB/Joss Barratt, Sixteen Films)

The Old Oak is a multinational production about a mining village in northeast England that is facing closure, and the conflicts surrounding the town’s reaction to newly-arrived Syrian refugees. Source: Australian Catholics.

The film is a co-production between the UK, France and Belgium. 

Turner plays TJ Ballantyne, who is the landlord of The Old Oak, the town’s one remaining pub. Ballantyne is divorced, depressed and estranged from his son. 

Tensions surface in the town when a busload of tired and frightened Syrian asylum-seekers arrive. The Syrians are desperately in need of understanding and support. Tensions increase when Ballantyne strikes up a friendship with Yara , one of the refugees (Mari). His gentle friendship with Yara is misinterpreted by some of the townspeople, and the Old Oak becomes a pub where racism rears its ugly head.

Resentment of the immigrants runs rife. The Syrian refugees are treated appallingly by some of the residents. Many of the townspeople feel their lives are being destroyed by what is happening around them – they feel deserted both by the government and the mining industry that employed them.

This is an immensely compassionate film that is respectful of wildly different cultural beliefs and attitudes. Its scenarios are entirely naturalistic, and the desire to create and reinforce viable communities wanting to survive brings the refugees and townspeople ultimately together. 

Review by Peter W Sheehan, Jesuit Media

The Old Oak: Starring Ebla Mari, Dave Turner, Claire Rodgerson and Trevor Fox. Directed by Ken Loach. Rated MA 15+. Restricted. (Strong coarse language ). 113 min.


The Old Oak (Jesuit Media via Australian Catholics)