For those who just need a one-line recommendation to watch the film, the first paragraph more than suffices. For those who still want to know more, then know this:

The Beautiful Game is heartwarming and traditional. It is an inspiring movie that’s inspired by real-life events.

The film is about homeless men and women from 70 countries — Pakistan is mentioned in passing as one of them — who compete in the annual soccer world cup for the homeless, whose teams include both men and women.

While this particular story in the film is fictional, it could just as well be a real life account, given the way the story is handled. Our person of interest is a homeless man named Vinny (Michael Ward), who reluctantly signs up to play for England in the Homeless World Cup, which is held in Rome.

For the most part, director Thea Sharrock and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce succeed in designing a breezy, amiable film about aspirations, inner demons and redemptions. It is, therefore, unsurprising that the film does not paint countries as villains.

The Beautiful Game, a film revolving around the soccer Homeless World Cup, invites one to enjoy the company of its characters and cheer for their triumphs

Nevertheless, there is one big bad team to defeat in the World Cup: South Africa — however one can’t hate them, no matter how hard one tries.

Some measure of irk, however, does fall on to Vinny, whose gruff exterior doesn’t really have a soft interior. Vinny is a wiz with the football, who gets picked by legendary scout Mal (Bill Nighy). This is his big break. Vinny lives in his car and works in logistics when they have the need for an extra set of hands. In the first 15 minutes, we learn that he is separated from his wife and is only able to see his daughter once a week.

In the one scene the film has of the family together, Vinny seems to be a good-natured man who is ashamed of his circumstances. For the rest of the film, he is insufferable and insensitive.

Vinne’s reasoning for his open offensiveness loses credibility quickly. However, the film’s breezy energy more than makes up for its main character’s lacks.

The Beautiful Game is not about long-winded backstories. However, being a sports film about the less fortunate, one does see some bits about the supporting characters here and there. Like most aspects of the film — namely the soccer matches — these bits are a welcome addition that makes one wish the film had a longer running time.

Bill Nighy steps into the archetype of a retired old-pro with graceful ease. It is a typical role one expects to see in sports movies. Mal’s part does not demand heavy-handed sob-stories. Rather than wail and cry and propagate the message, The Beautiful Game invites one to enjoy the company and cheer for their triumphs, and not get disheartened by their failures. The feeling is beautiful.

Streaming on Netflix, The Beautiful Game is rated PG-13, and is suitable for audiences of all ages

Published in Dawn, ICON, April 7th, 2024

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