The Keeper (2018)
Depending on where you’re reading this, you may or may not know that I’m a supporter of the greatest football team in the world, Manchester City. This has not swayed my review in any way and really isn’t important. Neither is being a football fan in general. For this is one of those football films that is about so much more, in this case, people caught up in a war. It’s a slightly dramatised, but still a fairly accurate overview telling of the Bert Trautmann story. A German PoW in World War II, one of many men caught in a war by circumstance, on the wrong side. We’re in the territory of BBC period drama here through, it’s heavily sanitised, for it’s not really about war either. In keeping with time honoured British productions, there’s a cast of familiar faces and that’s where the heart of this film lies, it’s characters, it’s people. Bert is spotted being a bit handy in a Lancashire PoW camp by a local football manager, wonderfully played in a charactured fashion by John Henshaw. He’s drafted to play in goal for St. Helen’s FC, help in the managers shop and slowly assimilates into life in England. Partly by falling in love, mostly by being sickened by his previous life alongside Nazis he despised. Much of the opening hour feels like the origin story and has some real depth to it, his struggle to be accepted in a country where he’s still seen as the enemy. It does go full schmaltz in the second half of the film though as Trautmann marries, joins City and plays in that Cup Final with a broken neck. Yes it’s laid on thick, but to be fair he played with a broken neck!! For all the highs though, the lows only hit harder, the loss of his son, the lingering traumatic memories of war. For what appears on the surface as a simple biopic, there’s a lot here to unpack and the 2 hours rattles past alarmingly fast. Life, loss, redemption, it’s all here... but if you’re just a City fan, you’ll enjoy this too.