Claudia Leisinger

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Dir: Gurinder Chadha
Country: UK Certificate: 12
Running Time: 113 minutes
Out: April 12

East Is East meets Billy Elliot in a park with jumpers for goalposts. Eighteen-year old Jess (Parminder Nagra) is at the age where her family expect her to study for a sensible career, choose a nice Indian husband as her older sister Pinky is about to do, and hone her cooking. Jess, though, would much rather sharpen her soccer skills like her idol David Beckham. When she meets Jules (Keira Knightley), another football-mad girl, and is invited to join her women’s team, the scene is set for a clash between curling free kicks round a wall or driving her parents up one with her lack of interest in the intricacies of making the perfect aloo gobi.

Those who dance along to the music of Talvin Singh or Nitin Sawhney, chuckle away at Goodness Gracious Me on TV, or have even clapped eyes on the odd hour or three of a Bollywood musical may get the idea that cultural integration for Indian families grown up in the UK is a done deal. Chadha and her co-writers sensitively reveal the tensions of adjustment still present for both younger and older Indian generations, acting as referee for both sides, though ultimately coming down in favour of a progressive future. The irony is that David Beckham is possibly the perfect Indian son-in-law, a model professional devoted to his wife and family; though the idea of Victoria slaving over the samosas is probably stretching things.

Ultimately the film’s strength is that it’s not ‘just’ a comedy about race, Jules’ mother (Juliet Stevenson) equally concerned about her daughter’s football passion, reminding her that ‘Sporty Spice is the only one without a fella’. The duelling romance between the girls over their coach Joe (Johnathan Rhys Meyers) is weak, and though Chadha works tirelessly to bring football to life on the big screen, there’s still something missing even if she succeeds better than most. Happily none of this obscures the zestful energy of a film that, with the World Cup only weeks away, makes a perfectly timed late run into the area to capitalise on an (inter)national obsession and be a crowd-pleaser in its own right.

'© Raindance 2002. No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.'