Director: David Scheinmann
Major Players: Brian Cox, Jack Smith, Natascha McElhone, Toby Stephens
Don’t be fooled by all the British indie films out there: getting a low-budget film made in this country is still as tough as ever – if not more so. Which means that film makers are getting increasingly creative, not just in terms of getting funding but also in reaching that equally essential audience.
Believe is a case in point. It gets a decent enough distribution when it’s released on Friday, but it’s up against the week’s blockbuster Hercules and the likes of Earth To Echo and horror The Purge:Anarchy. So how does the film get to a bigger audience? Trinity Film has done a deal with Sky Movies so that the film’s premiered on the TV channel on Friday at the same time as it opens in cinemas. And, after that, it’s available on demand. It’s a smart move that could potentially create a bigger demand for British movies.
With the makers and Sky showing such faith in the film, should we? It is, I should add, nothing to do with Justin Bieber’s film of the same name, but a piece of warm hearted footballing whimsy set in the 1980s. Legendary Manchester United manager, Sir Matt Busby (Brian Cox), is long retired and looking for something to do. When he has his wallet lifted by a young tearaway, he discovers the boy, Georgie, (Jack Smith) has a real talent for football and sets about coaching him and his friends, turning them into a team to compete in an under-12s tournament. The only thing that stands in their way is Georgie’s mum and her academic ambitions for her son.
It’s a soft hearted film with more than a few echoes of Kevin Costner’s Field Of Dreams. It’s not so much a case of “if you build it, they will come” – although Trinity will be hoping if they show it, the audience will come – but the ghosts are still very much there. This time they’re the young Manchester United players killed in the Munich air disaster of 1958 who are shrouded in mist on the football field. There’s other ghosts as well. Busby’s father who died in World War I and never knew about his success and Georgie’s father, killed in a car crash, never saw his son’s skill with a ball.
So the parallels are pretty obvious and there are moments when the film teeters very close to cliché. What makes it worth watching is the trio of Brian Cox, Anne Reid as his wife and Philip Jackson as his mate, Bob. Cox is excellent as Busby, rarely smiling, haunted by the Munich crash but still full of love for the beautiful game and his understanding wife – and not averse to playing hooky once in a while. The scenes between the couple are touching and have the comfort of a favourite pair of slippers. Jackson is a perfect foil for Cox’s Busby, encouraging him to have a bit of fun at the races and reluctantly finding himself the assistant manager of a group of under-12s.
Director David Scheinmann has done an admirable job choreographing the group of boys – and one girl – that make up the team. Young Jack Smith is actually an aspiring footballer and, judging from the film, he certainly has the skills – and potentially has acting to fall back on if it doesn’t work out. He’s a less edgy version of Shaun Thomas in one of the best British films of last year, Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant. The rest of the team are all footballers at heart as well, but still manage to create distinctive enough characters.
Essentially a Sunday afternoon film for the family, Believe provides a slice of nostalgic history for football fans, especially those who remember Busby in his heyday. And anybody who enjoys the beautiful game should be pretty happy with it as well.
Believe is released in cinemas and on Sky Movies on Friday, 25 July.