A still from Netflix’s new sports drama, The Beautiful Game.
A still from Netflix’s new sports drama, The Beautiful Game.Screengrab

'The Beautiful Game' movie review: Eyes on the ball

Despite being a sports drama, which awaits the expected triumph of the underdogs in the end, 'The Beautiful Game' doesn’t depend on the chills before the end.

In one of the final scenes in Netflix’s new sports drama, The Beautiful Game, Micheal Ward’s Vinny quotes a famous saying, “We don’t save ourselves, we save each other.” This is an overarching philosophy that ties every bit and piece of the film together, allowing it to soar high on emotions without necessarily relying on groundbreaking storytelling.

The relationship between underdogs and sports dramas has always been built on a bedrock of tried-and-tested templates. The Beautiful Game tries to bring in some new ideas even within the limitations of the format. The choice of sport, for instance, is an International Homeless World Cup. The story is set in motion as coach Mal, a delicate yet ambitious yesteryear footballer, played by an impressive Bill Nighy, brings the level-headed Vinny into a pack of five homeless men, who are set to represent England at the International Homeless Football tournament in Rome.

The novel treatment in The Beautiful Game takes centre stage, featuring political undertones and inclusive portrayals of characters, as the team consists of six men from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds. This isn’t quite the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup, where white men majorly represent England. It is instead a competition to be seen in the context of homelessness.

Despite being a sports drama, which awaits the expected triumph of the underdogs in the end, The Beautiful Game doesn’t depend on the chills before the end. Instead, it finds its heart in the breezy exchange of wits, which prevents it from becoming a preachy melodrama.

For instance, while Vinny blames his teammates for losing the semifinals, citing their past and how they are all failures, one of the teammates—a Syrian refugee—says, “I was a barber before I came here. Who would like an excellent shave?” The scene cuts to where these homeless footballers get a shave from one of their co-players. Such organic segues land as significant events, which never let you detach from the emotional connection with the characters.

In a scene, where the Syrian man chooses not to participate in a game due to political differences with the opposite teammate, and then proceeds to hug that same person; it speaks volumes in the current scenario. The film effectively conveys subtle political undertones without making it a plot device.

As the end credits roll, The Beautiful Game emphasises that we don’t save ourselves. We save each other, whether it’s through a game of football or the kindness we show one another. 

Director: Thea Sharrock

Genre: Sports drama

Platform: Amazon Prime

Language: English

Rating: 3/5 stars

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The New Indian Express
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