There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble

carlyle and mckenzie
dir John Hay
scr Simon Mayle, Rik Carmichael, John Hay
with Lewis McKenzie, Robert Carlyle, Gina McKee, Ray Winstone, Ben Miller, Bobby Power, Samia Ghadie, Jane Lapotaire, John McArdle, John Henshaw, Ciaran Griffiths, Charles Denton
Pathe 00/UK 4 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
It's rare for a British film (about football no less!) to wear its heart on its sleeve; There's Only One Jimmy Grimble is a warm, openly optimistic film about rediscovering faith in oneself. It features three of Britain's top actors in nicely against-type roles, and introduces a fine new actor in the title role. Yes, it's all a bit sentimental, but if you can put your cynicism aside for a couple of hours, the film works wonderfully.

Jimmy (McKenzie) is a nerdy 15-year-old in Manchester, a Man City fan and the chief victim of the Man United-supporting school bully (Power). Jimmy's mother (McKee) has just taken up with a new boyfriend (Miller) who thinks he's far too cool, but this only makes Jimmy miss her previous boyfriend (Winstone) even more. In private Jimmy can do anything with a ball; but on the pitch his nerves take over and he falls apart. Then an old woman (Lapotaire) gives him a pair of tatty football boots that are supposedly magical ... and maybe they are. Because when Jimmy is forced to wear them for a school match, he suddenly overcomes his stage fright, much to the surprise of his coach (Carlyle).

As the entire story is told through Jimmy's eyes, the audience is taken along for a journey with the help of a funny, insightful script, some clever direction and a fine central performance from Mackenzie. But it's not just Jimmy who's bullied here--virtually every character has been shattered in some way, and each must rediscover their self-confidence before the film ends. The fragility of the characters is real; we feel it! And yet the film unabashedly keeps hopes high that the characters will triumph in some way. OK, so it's a bit sweet and rough around the edges, but it wins us over with its hint of magical realism, a thumping pop score and lots of wry humour. And the football scenes are extremely well shot (the final goal is devastating!)--real heart-pumping stuff. And heart-warming too.

[themes, language] 1.Aug.00
UK release 25.Aug.00

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R&M Gallinger, Canada: We're football fans (and Oasis is for Manchester City) so this movie appealed to my daughter and me on that alone. Also, we own Billy Elliot on DVD, so there you go. This movie is better than Billy Elliot on many levels; the sappy quotient is kept at a minimum and we love the way the winning goal is made! Have to say that the soundtrack to Billy Elliot is the winner, though. (29.Sep.01)

C H, online: 5/5 Without doubt the best, funniest & most heartwarming football film ever! Even better knowing that it was in fact written by a Rag (Man United fan), one wise enough to to realise that if he wanted the audience to warm to & root for Jimmy in his struggles against life's more arrogant & loathsome individuals, he just had to be a City fan, what with their experience of living with such horrible, red, crisp-lickers. Two things I've always wondered: I know "Jimmy" was selected from addictions in local schools (Wythenshaw), but was he ever in anything else?* And as the film was obviously on such a relatively low budget, how much did Ray Winstone & Robert Carlyle agree for their parts - as both were already massive stars by the time this was made? (29.Oct.19)

* Lewis McKenzie appeared in a couple of TV series and movies, but seems to have stopped acting after 2002.

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© 2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall