A strong British cast adds dramatic tone to familiar material in "When Saturday Comes," a northern working-class drama about a young guy trying to better himself and break his ne'er-do-well father's family jinx.

A strong British cast adds dramatic tone to familiar material in “When Saturday Comes,” a northern working-class drama about a young guy trying to better himself and break his ne’er-do-well father’s family jinx. In a role Albert Finney would have played in the early ’60s, Sean Bean adds another strongly drawn character to his portfolio, but the movie’s essentially small story and concerns are likely to translate into equally small B.O. Tube and cable sales look healthier for this likable but modest item.

Making her feature bow, American writer-director Maria Giese bases her script on the early life of her husband, Sheffield-born producer James Daly (“Highlander II” and its sequel). The low-budgeter is clearly a labor of love for all concerned, including Bean, who’s also from Sheffield.

Jimmy Muir (Bean) lives in a traditional working-class area where life revolves round the local mine, beery evenings in the bar, and soccer and skirt-chasing for relaxation. Though in his mid-20s, Jimmy still lives at home, with his younger brother Russell (Craig Kelly), embittered father (John McEnery) and downtrodden mom (Ann Bell). His dream is to make it as a professional soccer player with Sheffield United.

Things start to look up when he’s picked by trainer Ken Jackson (Pete Postlethwaite) for the semi-pro Hallam United. Meanwhile, Jimmy also starts making headway with the perky Annie (Emily Lloyd), an Irish girl who’s just started at his factory and whose horizons are similarly broad.

The big time beckons Jimmy with an invitation to try out for Sheffield United , but he suddenly blows his chances on all fronts, getting drunk the night before, sleeping with a stripper and fumbling the trial. Soon after, his brother is killed in a mining accident. Jackson is finally persuaded to give him a second chance, but the now-pregnant Annie has meanwhile gone AWOL in a huff.

The movie’s feel-good finale is telegraphed but is technically well constructed and presses all the right emotional buttons.

What surprises the pic presents come almost entirely from the performances, with Bean playing his part to the hilt, Lloyd making quite a mark as the sassy, self-possessed Annie and Postlethwaite strong as the voice of Jimmy’s conscience.

Gerry Fisher’s location lensing is generally fine, and Anne Dudley’s warm, melodious score nudges the drama along nicely. Film was shot under the title “A Pint o’ Bitter.”

When Saturday Comes

British

Production

A Guild Film Distribution release (in U.K.) of a Capitol Films presentation of a Daly/Lambert/Teper production. Produced by James Daly, Christopher Lambert, Meir Teper. Executive producers, David Matalon, Peter Koral. Directed, written by Maria Giese, from a screen story by James Daly.

Crew

Camera (color), Gerry Fisher; editor, George Akers; music, Anne Dudley; production design, Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski; art direction, Luana Hanson; costume design, Kate Carin; sound (Dolby SR Digital), Simon Okin; associate producer, Hannah Leader; assistant director, Tommy Gormley; casting, Jeremy Zimmermann. Reviewed at Mr. Young's Preview Theater, London, Jan. 18, 1996. Running time: 97 min.

With

Jimmy Muir - Sean Bean Annie Doherty - Emily Lloyd Ken Jackson - Pete Postlethwaite Joe Muir - John McEnery Russell Muir - Craig Kelly Sarah Muir - Ann Bell Mary Muir - Melanie Hill Priest - David Leland
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more