There is something incredibly appealing about the cafe culture in European cities. When walking along a sun-kissed Mediterranean street on a brisk, Spring afternoon, locals adorn cafes and restaurants, sat outside, with a half pint of lager and an ashtray that most probably needs emptying. For me this is emblematic of a holiday, mostly because it’s a culture we simply don’t have here in London. In London we have the great British institution that is the pub, where we all sit inside (it is a lot colder here, remember) and we chug lager rather than sip it, often with a packet of crisps torn open in the middle for friends to share.
Naturally, tourists like to assimilate into the respective culture of the nation they are visiting, so pubs are busy here, particularly in Central London, but ultimately the pub culture of the capital is changing – and not for the better. When I was growing up it felt like there was a pub on every street corner, and it would be a place the residents of the local area would convene, to socialise, indulge in political debate and ponder what we’d do if we won the lottery. Yet pubs are closing, rapidly, and these long-standing venues which enrich and enforce a local sense of community, are now being turned into flats – and it’s this very theme that is explored in Dan Cadan’s affable comedy Walk Like a Panther, which was released in the UK last week.
Numbers are dwindling, and alcohol costs an incredible amount nowadays, particularly in London, which can make a night in the pub unfeasible, not to mention the fact that with Netflix becoming so prominent in modern society, having friends round at your house can be a much cheaper/more fulfilling alternative than a night sat in the pub watching Corrie on a small TV screen hanging off the ceiling. In order to align themselves with a more high-brown clientele, pub grub is not quite as endearingly bad as it used to be either. Burgers are served in brioche buns these days, sesame seeds are becoming a thing of the past.
It’s all indicative of gentrification, and while understandable, it doesn’t mean it’s desirable. Walk Like a Panther reflects this notion and is a film riddled with nostalgia. Set in the 1980s, we focus in on an ageing group of wrestlers who agree to fight one last time in a bid to save their local public house from being knocked down by greedy men in suits. Starring Stephen Graham, Jason Flemyng and even Game of Thrones star Lena Headey, there can be no denying that this film is flawed – it’s a comedy that isn’t very funny – but it preaches a positive, pertinent message – to save our pubs.
So while we may fantasise over sitting down on a small black plastic table with an espresso to sip on as we watch the world go by, in reality what we really want is a pint of bitter and inane conversation, even with those drunk, harmless lonely men that can be hard to shake off after you give them your attention at the bar. We’d even miss them. Sort of.
- Watch here the trailer for Walk Like A Panther: