The search for a hit film hooked to the globally loved sport of soccer misses again with “Will,” a fictional tale of an orphaned English lad’s epic journey to watch his heroes Liverpool FC play in the UEFA 2005 Champions League Final in Istanbul. Documaker Ellen Perry’s feature debut misses the net due to an unconvincing premise, weak script, uneven performances and plodding pace. Indulgent local auds in Merseyside represent the pic’s best chance of earning meager coin, although this well-intentioned item might make the lineup as family-oriented TV viewing in soccer-loving nations.
Since the death of his mother, Will (newcomer Perry Eggleton), now 11, has resided in an orphanage run by nuns. Contact with his father, oil-rig worker Gareth (Damian Lewis), has been limited to the receipt of gifts celebrating the boy’s obsession with soccer team Liverpool Football Club. Now the young widower has come to reclaim his son, and soon scores two tickets to the big Europe final, but fate deals a cruel blow when Gareth suddenly dies.
Pic takes on a fairy-tale aspect as the boy determines to go to the match anyway, hooking up in France with kindly truck driver Alek (Kristian Kiehling), later revealed to be a former player for FK Sarajevo. A detour through Alek’s home village in Bosnia prompts flashbacks of the trauma that caused him to hang up his cleats, but it’s one heart-tugging element too many in an already rich mix. By the time the plucky lad has become an international media sensation and the mascot for a coachload of traveling fans, the film is going all out for feel-good euphoria. But auds are more likely to be distracted by concerns such as how the document-less kid evaded numerous border checkpoints on his long journey to Ataturk Stadium.
While producer-helmer-scribe Perry is clearly out of her depth, in fairness, this material might have challenged more celebrated talents. Placing Eggleton in virtually every scene is a big gamble, although the kid is not without sweet charm, and he fares no worse than seasoned thesps including Bob Hoskins as a pub landlord and Alice Krige as a kindly nun. Eton-educated Lewis is a stretch as a heavily Liverpool-accented rig worker.
The $12 million production lensed in six English counties, as well as Paris, Bursa, Istanbul and London’s Elstree Studios, lending verisimilitude to a story that’s otherwise sorely lacking in that quality. Tech credits are fine, although editing suffers from numerous reaction shots held a beat too long.