Not being a huge fan of sports, especially soccer, I was a little bit hesitant heading in to see The Keeper, but I am glad that I gave it a chance. It’s not so much a film about soccer, it’s actually about a lot more than that, including love, heartbreak, determination and forgiveness.
The Keeper is based on the incredible true story of Bert Trautmann, a German soldier turned professional soccer player. Trautmann played by David Kross, is captured by British forces and taken to a prisoner-of-war camp. Upon his arrival, he is instantly put to work repairing the damage created by the German attacks, and also given the job of cleaning the latrines when it was discovered he had received an Iron Cross.
While on a delivery to the camp local store owner and football coach Jack Friar played by John Henshaw, spots Bert playing soccer with the other prisoners and is instantly impressed by his skills. Jack soon recruits Trautmann to play for his team, St Helens Town, in order to win a wager with a local sheep farmer. But once the struggling team finally has a win, all are on board for Trautmann to join full time, and he jumps at the chance to leave the camp, while also working as a laborer in Jack’s store much to the disapproval of Jack’s daughter Margaret (Freya Mavor).
Margaret’s disapproval doesn’t last long though as the two find themselves falling for each other, but in a love that is forbidden. Eventually Trautmann is spotted by a talent scout from Manchester City soccer team, a team with a huge Jewish fan base. Trautmann and Manchester City received a great amount of backlash from the signing, but he stayed strong and eventually went on to play over 500 games for the club.
I found The Keeper to be a great film that gave a bit more brighter representation of the period towards the end of the war and fall of the Nazi forces. I was expecting this period to be a lot darker and grittier, but the film kind of glossed over it and moved on past it pretty quickly, which makes sense as it is a film about Trautmann‘s rise as a professional footballer, not the war. I feel it did a good job of dealing with the struggle to be accepted by the English people, both the locals and the soccer fans. Trautmann did a great deal to help progress the relations between Germans and English people, especially the Jews, and proved that not all Germans followed the Nazi’s beliefs.
The romantic tension between Trautmann and Margaret is strong, and comes across as very fun and playful in the film with some touching scenes. Later events in the film, when the couple deal with some horrible setbacks, you can really feel their heartbreak. Freya Mavor deserves a special mention here, as she shows a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the film which I found extremely impressive. I expect to see her a lot more of her on-screen in the near future.
Although I found The Keeper to be a wonderful and charming film, it felt a little long-winded towards the end where we discover Trautmann and Margaret’s private lives and the struggles following injury and loss. It’s almost as if they weren’t sure how to finish the film and wanted to jam in a whole bunch of more emotion to tug on the heartstrings. It felt a little forced and unnecessary, taking away from the real heart of the film. But don’t let that put you off seeing it, The Keeper is a wonderful look back at a small but significant part of history.
The Keeper is in cinemas Australia wide Thursday July 25th.