Review: ‘Will’

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.

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.

Will

U.K.-Turkey

Production

A Vertigo Films (in U.K.) release of a Galata Film presentation of a Strangelove Films production. (International sales: Archstone, Los Angeles.) Produced by Taha Altayli, Ellen Perry, Zack Anderson, Mark Cooper, Timothy Nicholas. Executive producers, Mustafa Karahan, Stephen Moffitt, Stewart Till. Co-producer, Muharrem Gulmez. Directed by Ellen Perry. Screenplay, Zack Anderson, Perry.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Oliver Stapleton; editors, Lesley Walker, Brenna Rangott; music, Nigel Clarke, Michael Csanyi-Wills; music supervisor, Alison Wright; production designer, James Merifield; art director, Paul Ghirardani; set decorator, Debbie Wilson; costume designer, Lindsay Pugh; sound designer (Dolby Digital), Niv Adiri; re-recording mixers, Mike Dowson, Richard Pryke; special effects supervisor, Stuart Brisdon; visual effects supervisor, Adam Gascoyne; visual effects, Union VFX; stunt coordinators, Gary Arthurs, Andy Bennett; line producer, Alex Sutherland; associate producer, Paul McGrattan; assistant director, Alex Oakley; casting, Dan Hubbard. Reviewed at Charlotte Street Hotel, London, Sept. 2, 2011. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Perry Eggleton, Kristian Kiehling, Bob Hoskins, Damian Lewis, Alice Krige, Brandon Robinson, Kieran Wallbanks, Nicolas Chagrin, Ralph Amoussou, Canan Erguder, Jane March, Jamie Carragher, Kenny Dalglish, Steven Gerrard. (English dialogue)

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  1. Scott says:

    Perhaps in your smug pan of this film–which I really enjoyed for its child-centrific perspective, you should mention that it’s not for the “dead-at-heart”, which you may well be… There were real-life emotional challenges for Will, the central driver of this heart warming film, that weren’t standard Hollywood formula at all. I found that very refreshing. Soccer fans aren’t necessarily the most likely to be the most gratified audience, true. However, the demographics of the sensitive youth, those marginalized in society, and we who live with our hearts still engaged as adults–these are the best audience for such a gem. Your points on editing have merit, and it could have included a few more strong supporting roles too. But, this film was about a youth who needed the support of others, and this was his lot. It was all too real in that regard and is nothing like the standard formulaic films we, as film goers, are so tired of. Thanks to Miss Perry for NOT making another run-of-the-mill, sadly predictable film. I think anyone who can relate to the challenge of not having solid parenting as a youth will love this film very much–and certainly the UK soccer fans will love it as well.

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