Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Believe

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Believe

Article excerpt


PG, Nationwide

The trouble with Believe is that, unless you are ten years old or under, which I'm assuming you are not, you won't believe. Not for a second. Not for a minute. Not a word of it. This doesn't see itself as a children's film and isn't being marketed as a children's film, which means I can't be kind and generous about it, as I might be about an actual children's film, if I were in a charitable mood. (Rare, but it can happen. Or at least I think it did happen, once.)

The film had been 'inspired by actual events', or so I'd read, and follows Sir Matt Busby, the legendary Manchester United manager, coming out of retirement to coach a group of young working-class lads. From this, I'd assumed it would be one of those smart, Peter Morgan-style scripts that ditches the usual biopic narrative and instead captures the essence of someone's character by honing in on a particular period of their life. I was thinking The Damned United , probably. I'd also noted it stars Brian Cox and Anne Reid, which seemed like some kind of Kitemark of quality and, as it happens, Cox and Reid are quite the best thing about this, but that doesn't count for much (she says, uncharitably. Obviously, not in the mood today. It's hot).

Brian Cox as Sir Matt Busby

Set in 1984, in Manchester, the film opens when Busby (Cox) has his wallet lifted by a young scamp, Georgie (Jack Smith), whom he is minded to hand over to the police, but what's this? The boy has a real talent for football? So Busby, who is finding retirement tedious, sets about coaching him and his friends to compete in an under-12s tournament. Busby, it transpires, is still haunted by the 'Busby Babes', the young Manchester United players killed in the Munich air disaster of 1958, and feels a need to bring on these boys; to 'finish that work'. (Bit weird, this need, considering he did eventually build a new championship-winning team, bringing on other boys aplenty, but there you are.) Busby survived the crash, but is still bedevilled by flashbacks which see him buckled into a plane seat, wreckage all around, snow falling; snow as horribly fake as all this feels.

Meanwhile, there is an obstacle on the footballing front. Georgie's mother (Natascha McElhone) wants her son to focus on getting a scholarship to the posh boys' private school. McElhone has many gifts, I know, but convincing as a northern working-class mum is not among them, as she always looks as if she's just come from shopping in Chelsea, may try Knightsbridge this afternoon. …

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