Director: David Scheinmann
Cast: Jack Smith, Natascha McElhone, Brian Cox, Toby Stephens
Watch Believe online in the UK: NOW TV
Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned sports drama about a young underdog trying to achieve their dream? That was presumably the thinking behind Believe, a feel-good movie that is so intent on making you feel good you end up losing all sensation in your toes.
The incredibly likeable Jack Smith plays Georgie Gallagher, a tearaway growing up in Manchester who prefers football to reading, writing and… well, everything. Raised by his single mum (McElhone), times is hard and school’s a harder knock, especially when she decides to ship him off to a posh private institute, where football is frowned upon and rugger is revered.
Enter Sir Matt Busby (Brian Cox), who comes out of retirement to coach Georgie’s gaggle of friends in their attempts to win a local seven-a-side cup.
So far, so cliched. Unfortunately, the rest of David Scheinmann’s workmanlike drama is equally stereotypical. The cast are all clearly up for a game, with Natascha McElhone reminding you why she should come off Hollywood’s bench more often and Jack Smith scoring with his natural presence. Toby Stephens, meanwhile, finds the back of the net again and again as the pompous schoolmaster Dr. Farquar, who has a penchant for sneering and pretending to conduct the Monty Python theme tune in his pyjamas.
The star transfer, though, is Brian Cox, who plays Sir Busby with a downtrodden charm and impressively bushy eyebrows. But no matter how eager the performers are – and how impressive the period production design is – they are held back by the script, which is so heavy it would drag down even the fastest winger.
Airplane flashbacks are functional enough when it comes to exposing Busby’s back-story, but dream sequences of ghosts smiling over smoke-filled goals are a tad too unsubtle, while conversations that bluntly announce the death of Georgie’s dad feel equally artificial. Believe’s heart is commendable, but it wears it on its sleeve.
“You’ve got to have belief,” says the Manchester United legend to young Georgie. “Why?” the pupil asks. “Because…” begins Matt, then simply repeats himself again without any answers. If the movie could explain its own title, it might be able to pull off its blend of true story and unabashed sentiment. As it is, it’s hard to muster up much interest in this predictable kick about; after all, the pitch is waterlogged with syrup.
Believe is available to watch on NOW TV with a £9.99 monthly Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription