The Old Oak. MA15+. 113 minutes. Five stars., Ken Loach has been one of the most consistent filmmakers working across the past half-century. His films are social realist works about the working-class men and women whose rights he champions, and for all the grit you feel working on you from the screen, what comes out at the end of each one is a pearl. Not that they're great date-night films - "What are we seeing?" "Oh, let's go check out Ken Loach's new one, Ladybird Ladybird, where a lady's kids burn to death in a house fire." The Old Oak is the great man's final film. He is retiring gracefully at the age of 87 with this production after 28 films and two Cannes Film Festival Palme D'Or wins. It is as strong as much of his work, a very noble exit for the filmmaker, and full of the issues of the present day as you would expect from the noted champion of the underclasses. In a regional town in the north of Britain, the arrival of a busload of refugees from Syria has set the populace on edge, whatever existing racist inclinations being exacerbated by the knowledge that a company from Cyrus had bought up a number of the foreclosed houses in their neighbourhood at an online auction for less than ten thousand pounds apiece. With the mining industry gone, the town is on the decline and The Old Oak and its proprietor TJ (Dave Turner) are struggling. There's a handful of local drinkers who have spent their days and nights at the pub for decades, and so TJ doesn't want to rock the boat and say anything when these long-time friends and patrons begin a disturbing and increasingly aggressive conversation about the neighbourhood's new refugee citizens. Meanwhile one of the refugee girls Yara (Ebla Mari) finds an initially reluctant friend in TJ when her camera is broken by some local thug and he offers to get it fixed. Yara in turn becomes fascinated by the photographs of the 1984 miner's strike taken by TJ's uncle in the pub's unused back room. When an incident causes TJ to become more involved in making this new influx of foreign friends feel a part of their community, TJ finds himself in the middle of animosity from the hard-drinking close-minded, and support from the down-on-their-luck families who recognise these folks fleeing war are just like themselves. Loach's longtime screenwriter Paul Laverty gets to the heart of these disenfranchised characters, lashing out at Syrian refugees where they haven't been able to at the closing of their local industries. The film's M rating isn't for violence, it's for the raw conversations at the pub we get to listen in on, hard to listen to racist invective as the characters fire each other up and talk about organising a community meeting. The film sits alongside I, Daniel Blake and Sorry We Missed You as a trilogy on the decline of Britain's north. Loach draws together a cast of untrained locals from the community he films in, one of his great strengths and traditions, and it gives you raw performances and honest moments. His two lead performers give strong work, particularly Dave Turner's broken publican. Turner was formerly a Fire and Rescue worker and trade union official, and was a discovery amongst the local non-professional hires Loach made when filming I, Daniel Blake in the Durham region in 2014. Elba Mari is also good as Yara, though Yara is so reserved and a mediator for hotter egos that Mari doesn't get to emote with a full range of emotions. There's a warm sense of humanist empathy at the heart of this film, though you have to sit through some expectedly rough stuff to get there. It is much gentler than many a Ken Loach film, which is I think a nice note to depart on.