There’s not a great deal I can say about this film except that it’s a sweet-hearted (PG-rated!) take on a small moment in Northern Ireland’s sporting history, namely their advancement to the football World Cup finals in Mexico 1986, and their match against the world famous Brazilian team. (This team is led by the hirsute doctor of the film’s title, and namesake of a famous Greek philosopher, as is mentioned once or twice.) I was not quite 10 years old when this took place, but being Scottish I had my own set of sporting disappointments to deal with, and not against Brazil. There’s a kid about that age here, too, and the film uses the experience of him and his family as a window into the way the country reacted to their team’s achievement, against the backdrop of the Troubles and ever-present sectarian divisions. Alongside the domestic story is that of the team, coached by Billy Bingham (John Hannah) and followed by a TV news crew dominated by the preening Jackie (Conleth Hill), who rather steals the scenes he’s in. Aside from showing Billy indulging in a bit of low-level corruption, not to mention the familiar tanks and soldiers on the streets of Belfast, the film sticks to a good-natured tone, keeping things ticking along by cutting between the different storylines, and it never outstays its welcome.
Director James Erskine; Writers Erskine and Marie Jones; Cinematographer Joel Devlin; Starring John Hannah, Conleth Hill; Length 91 minutes.
Seen at Empire Leicester Square, London, Tuesday 9 June 2015.