It seems like a fitting time, what with Ireland’s matches in the Rugby World Cup and the Euro Qualifiers, to take a peek at a film about another historic moment in Irish sporting history. That being, Northern Ireland’s qualification for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. And even with me not being a Soccer fan, this one kind of won me over.
The film is of course, set against the backdrop of the Troubles which at the time still had a violent grip on Northern Ireland, and especially Belfast. Riots were common, and a deep rift lingered between the two sides. But here we have a glimmer of hope – the Northern Ireland team achieve the impossible and qualify for the World Cup, and take their place on one of the biggest sporting stages the World has to offer. We follow the team as they prepare for the matches ahead, and two families who are changed for the better by the events.
Now, most Sports movies tend to either be about a moment of glory, the Underdogs rising to the top, or the path of a legend. But here, we are watching the dizzying heights of a small team reaching a point they only ever dreamed of. For the people of Northern Ireland, it is a unifying moment of pride and exhilaration. The rioting is for a moment forgotten. So in that sense, this is a much more positive story than one of struggle or difficulties.
I liked the cinematography and editing effects, which give it the feel of being set in the late 1980’s on an old camera. Daylight shots are washed out, while night time sequences are highly saturated and have that lovely incandescent lighting. It is very easy to just fall into the era and imagine you are watching some film made from the time. And so, the footage from the matches blends in comfortably.
The same can be said for the cast, they’re such an enthusiastic bunch and use the quirky humour to bounce the energy across the screen with ease. They are in their element and so aid towards the immersion even more. I especially like the kid actor (a shocker that) and the TV presenter who has the strangest personality, but totally owns it as his own.
Beyond that there isn’t anything “special” of mention here. Oddly enough the Troubles are not as big a deal in the film as you might expect. They are happening, but referenced to not that often. And even though there are moments of difficulty for players and families, their addition to the complexity of the tones is small. On the whole, this is intended to be something to lift your spirits, and get you caught in the intoxicating optimism that the people and team possesses.
“Shooting for Socrates” isn’t a movie about glory, or a rise to fame, or even the Underdogs. It instead focusses on hope, determination, and the resilience of the human spirit. As far as a Sports-themed movie, it mightn’t leave you in inspired awe, but you will have as mile on your face by the end knowing that this kind of event can happen even for the most unlikely of teams. I found myself enjoying it more that I didn’t – it is fairly light-hearted and simple, but satisfying at the same time. It is a small release, but for Soccer fans and Movie Buffs alike, this is one worth tracking down.
Thank for reading!