Dir: Greg Cruttwell. With:
Emma Amos, Samuel Anderson, Siobhan Bevan, Brian Bovell. 94 mins. Cert: 15
A big season, this, for Greg
Cruttwell. Next month, the BFI revives Mike Leigh’s Naked, in which
Cruttwell landed his most indelible acting gig as the yuppie scumbag Jeremy.
This week, however, he resumes writer-director duties with a genial indie that
casts Leigh alumni and TV stalwarts as football-crazed individuals, pouring
their hearts out to a mostly static camera for 90 minutes plus injury time.
It’s an innately theatrical proposition: forever more talk than action, like a
fringe play that’s snuck in through the Odeon fire doors. (Formally, it
resembles those single-actor patch-ups that proliferated during lockdown.) Yet
this is pretty sound talk, engagingly performed: if not a resounding triumph
for one medium over another, then the kind of honourable draw that sends
everybody home reasonably happy.
Its tactics derive from the
Alan Bennett playbook, revealing what first seem like eccentrically heightened
passions – whether for Spurs or the fictional Sadlers Brook’s under-12s – as
cover for deeper, more personal struggles. Up in the boardroom, Emma Amos’s
non-league chairwoman mulls the ethics of an affair with her married manager
over glasses of Chardonnay; superfan Stephen Boxer (The Crown’s Denis
Thatcher) splutters sausage roll while over-investing in a juniors’ team (with
reassuringly wholesome reason); hotshot Samuel Anderson has his status
challenged by an influx of academy kids. Inevitably, referees get some stick:
Mark Hadfield provides comic relief as an official who refers to the pitch as
his “kingdom”, only to see himself royally dethroned.