It’s a Free World

It's a Free World

I liked It’s a Free World the deeper I got into it.

For a while, it was a mildly interesting story that didn’t draw me in all that much. Like, OK, these aren’t the least interesting people I’ve ever encountered, but I’m not sure I need to watch a whole movie about their efforts to get a shady small business off the ground. (Though the female lead being cute as hell does help.)

Plus, it’s a British movie, and due to the heavy accents, I understood maybe 80% of the dialogue. And I had to strain to understand that much. That has two consequences. One, my enjoyment of the film is diminished because I have to do that extra work. Two, it’s a little harder to follow some of the events, character development, etc., because 20% of the content is missing. I end up making educated guesses about certain things in the movie to fill in the gaps (or just remaining confused about them).

But gradually the intensity of the film picks up, and it becomes not just more interesting as a story, but more thought-provoking about morality and politics. You come to understand that what you’re watching is people on the bottom of the capitalist heap having to make decisions every day about what they’re willing to do to each other to rise above the bottom. And how it’s hopeless for most of them anyway; after they rationalize the compromises as best they can and sell out as much as they’re willing, chances are they’ll get slapped back down anyway. So they get the worst of both worlds: treated people shitty, and got to keep part or less of their compensation for doing so.

It put me in mind of when they would open the gas chamber doors, and discover the bodies arranged in such a way that some people had been willing to claw and kick and stomp their way through the other victims in order to get closest to the door to better their chances of escape. Sometimes you’re doomed no matter how low you’re willing to sink.

I thought It’s a Free World made the point well through the lead character that you really don’t have to be an unusually horrible human being to be willing to exploit others even more vulnerable when you’re desperate. She’s kind to certain people. She’s conflicted about the worst things she does. It’s pretty clear that if she could achieve even an OK life for herself and her son without doing the bad things she would. Making the moral compromises is only a small part of her recipe for success; she’s also showing initiative, taking risks, working extremely hard, etc. All-in-all, she’s not an unsympathetic character. (And did I mention she’s really good-looking?)

The point being that it’s not that there are a few scattered evil individuals making things bad by being willing to hurt and exploit others; it’s a whole system that puts the majority of people in a situation where there are few if any ways to avoid being a victim or a victimizer, and in fact probably ending up both whatever you choose.

Anyway, a worthwhile movie overall.

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