The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

A British football bromance of my liking

with 9 comments

I don’t recognize myself these days. The last two movies I’ve watched have both been about sports. What is going on here? I’d better be careful or I’ll make it a habit.

After the success of Moneyball the other day I turned back to my side of the Atlantic and a sport that is easier for most Europeans to embrace, namely football. To be fair I’m not much more interested in that than in baseball, but at least I get the rules roughly. I don’t follow the British matches they run on TV obviously, but I’d go as far as I’d probably watch how Sweden would do in the World Championship. Provided they’d made it as far as to the semi finals.

The Damned United is a movie “based on a true story” (with the reservations you always have to make in those cases) about the British football manager Brian Clough. Obviously I had never heard of the guy before, but that doesn’t say much since I couldn’t name any British football manager whatsoever apart from the Swede “Svennis”, who had a career in UK some years ago and was so much talked about that even I had to notice. But I assume Clough is famous, at least if you’re to believe what’s said about him in Wikipedia.

Not about football
However there’s no need to read at Wikipedia or to know anything at all about football. Because it isn’t really a film about football. It’s a film about personal pains and growth, about the consequences of excessive cockiness. And above all it’s a movie about relationships.

There are two of them in the movie. The first one is the bromance between Brian and his right-hand man Peter Tailor. The second one is what happens between Brian and Don Revie, who also was a football manager. It’s a relationship that is characterized by competition and hostility and Brian gets so obsessed by it that it puts his bromance at danger.

I have to admit it took me a little while before I could embrace Brain. He had a big mouth, that’s for sure, and I could totally understand why people could find him annoying, tossing out statements such as:

“I’m not saying I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.”

“We talk about it for twenty minutes and then we decide I was right.”  (Answering the question about how he handled player democracy in Derby)

But cocky or not, I sort of got used to him after a while and found myself actually caring or at least being intrigued by the guy. And I’m not alone in this by the way. From the wiki, I learn that they had to hold the memorial ceremony after he died in 2004 at a stadium since 14 000 people wanted to attend.

The movie however ends much earlier, in 1975, and only goes into a brief period of his life, the 44 days when he trained Leeds United (with some backflashes to the years before). It doesn’t go into the darkest places of his life, which included many years of alcoholism.

Gritty but fairly bright
On the whole it’s a fairly bright and cheerful film – as cheerful as it gets when you show Britain in the 70s – gritty, bleak, with a color pallet with different shades of brown and grey.

I liked it and why shouldn’t I? After all it’s directed by Tom Hooper, who also did The King’s Speech, which was on my top 10 list of 2011. Currently he’s finishing an adaptation of the musical Les Misérables, to be realeased late this year. It seems like quite some jump of genre, but considering the quality of the first two movies I’ve seen by him, I’m hopeful it will be a good one.

The Damned United (Tom Hooper, UK, 2009) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

January 13, 2012 at 7:00 am

Posted in The Damned United

9 Responses

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  1. This is going to shock you…. I am British Hetrosexual male that doesn’t like football!! It is madness I know. SO this film hasn’t been on my radar EVER.

    But I cannot deny the fact that you gave it a 4/5, so maybe I will have to give this a go!

    Scott Lawlor

    January 13, 2012 at 7:51 am

    • For real? I guss you could put yourself in a cage and charge ticket fees for people to see you. Such a rare specimen! 🙂

      Honestly I think you could very well give this a go. It’s got some really good actors in it if nothing else. And a bromance story that at least captured me. The actual football in it are just passing moments on a TV screen. Not much to word about.


      January 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm

  2. Another British man who dislikes football here 🙂

    And I have to say, I seriously doubt I will ever see this film. Even if it is not “about” football, just being “set” in football is I have to say, a big turn-off.

    But with these two recent films you really should now watch Invictus if you have not done so already 🙂

    Lewis Maskell

    January 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    • Again, I have NO interest in sports and I liked a lot anyway. You have to take me on my word! 🙂
      I haven’t seen Invictus but I’ll put it on my mental too-see-list!

      With those two recent good movies i fresh memory I’m less reluctant to watch stuff connected to the world of sports.


      January 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm

  3. I was seriously dreading this one arriving – I dislike football intensely, but Himself wanted to see it. Like you, I found the football to be the ‘side’ plot, in a character driven film. I came out at the end neither liking or disliking Brian Clough, but feeling that, like most of us, he was a flawed human being, doing what he thought would turn out best. I’ve searched back to the blog post that I mentioned it in, as it was a while ago I watched it and amongst all the rest of it I wrote:

    “I flicked between liking, feeling sorry for and loathing Clough, which is, I gather, how people felt about him in general, and I’m happy with that. Flawed people being much more interesting in general than standard Hollywood heroes/villains. The way his partnership with Peter Taylor developed felt real, genuine, and yes, flawed, like actual friendships are. The whole thing felt believable (probably a good thing, based, as it is, on actual events) and refreshingly unglamorised.”

    I stand by that as my view of the film!

    The Wide Eyed Imp

    January 14, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    • That’s a good way to wrap it up. I thought of him as pretty annoying initially,”flawed” as you say. But as time went by I found myself starting to care for him and for that bromance. I must say that it’s a pretty good grade to a movie when someone who isn’t just uninterested in football but even hates it, like you, can end up liking it.


      January 15, 2012 at 10:11 am

  4. I actually think not knowing anything about football is an advantage when it comes to “The Damned United”.
    Even though I’m completely indifferent to the multi million pound industry of modern sport, I grew up in the UK in the 1970’s and football and Brian Clough were a large part of my life. It was quite sad seeing the young cocksure Clough turn into a drunken, shambling wreck and even sadder that he never made his peace with Peter Taylor before his death in the 1980’s.
    I haven’t seen the film but I’m well aware of the furore that has surrounded it, Brian Clough’s family and a lot of his associates were appalled by how he was portrayed, but a lot of people I know really enjoyed it.
    It seems “The Damned United” and reactions to it mirror the man himself!

    Paul S

    January 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    • I think he comes out pretty fine in the end. Cocky – yes, but sympathetic in the end. And there’s nothing about the dark years of heavy drinking or the fact that they didn’t speak with each other towards the end of his life. I don’t think it’s scandalizing at all. But in the end – doing movies “based on a true story” is always a tricky thing as it isn’t a documentary in the end, but the people who were involved in the events that are described probalby expect it to be anyway. It’s bound to disappoint someone.


      January 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm

  5. Great bio pic and i´m not especially interested in soccer.


    January 15, 2012 at 11:51 pm

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