Jimmy Grimble: poetry and nostalgia for the best football film

A decidedly atypical World Cup and a football game that has become almost exclusively business. Do you want to rediscover the taste of football once upon a time? Then you (re)see Jimmy Grimble. An unknown and beautiful film.

Football in the cinema is a subject of complicated transliteration. At least according to the general opinion, which among other things identifies ne Cursed United by Tom Hooper the best film on the most loved sport in Europe. That may be true, but that film, which chronicled the heroic deeds of a formidable trainer like Brian Clough, is still a biopic. An easier genre border for cinematographic conception, at least narratively speaking. Yet, sifting through the dusty video library of our football and cinephile memory, there is another football film that deserves attention. Indeed, it deserves full attention. Because? Simple: it is the most beautiful football film ever made. How is it possible that it is semi-unknown? Well, at least in Italy it has never been distributed, and the writer saw it for the first time on Tele+. Realize: literally a Century ago. If we have intrigued you, the secret is revealed: let’s talk about Jimmy Grimble (original title, There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble) by John Hay who, after this jewel dated 2000, didn’t have a – so to speak – glittering career.

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Jimmy Grimble: a scene from the movie

All the more reason to see his film (you can find it streaming on Mediaset Infinity+), especially today that we are dealing with football that has by now markedly changed: a decidedly unusual and questionable World Cup in Qatar, the fans more attentive to contracts than to goals, creeping feeling that football players have become living companies, losing sight of sporting and athletic honesty. Consequently, losing that purity and that epic as a function of a video game spectacularity. Tricks, upgrades, skills. Stuff diametrically opposed to the essentiality of the sporting gesture, the intuition of champions, the fleeting difference between victory and defeat. Because of this, Jimmy Grimble takes us back to the glory days, on the pozzolana fields, to the rainy and humid English province, where football between the red brick buildings was the true Protestant prayer. In particular, Hay’s film is the perfect slide that summarizes the beauty of a lost and frayed football conception.

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Bobby Brewer’s boots

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Jimmy Grimble: a scene from the film

If the nostalgia effect plays a fundamental role, Jimmy Grimble it is a film not to be missed also for its narrative structure, hovering between fairy tale and sport movies. The protagonist is Jimmy (Lewis McKenzie, disappeared from circulation) who, like any 15-year-old boy, has two loves: one for a girl, the other for football. But Jimmy’s life is complicated. His mother (Gina McKee) loves him dearly, even if she wastes time behind questionable relationships. Not only that, Jimmy is being stalked by bullies. For a noble dreamer like him, weaknesses are real targets for the older and more stupid kids. We forgot, Jimmy is a Manchester City fan. Let’s say that today there would be nothing to be ashamed of, given the team they have become (thanks to money), but in 2000 City were a team of underdog, and sifting through the data we realize that at the end of the season they were even relegated. A noble and proletarian, romantic and popular team. Outsiders to the core. But still (it was) a losing team, like losers.

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Jimmy Grimble: a scene from the film

Here the first short circuit, the first smile: within twenty years City has become the richest club in the world, far from the values ​​Jimmy cheers for. That football-loving and foot-talented Jimmy. Too bad, however, that he suffers from the classic performance anxiety: he is unable to show his skill when he takes the field, attracting the violent attention of the bullies. Then the turning point: an old lady gives him a pair of tattered boots that belonged to an old City player, Bobby Brewer. The magic slippers will give him the right confidence, but it will be Coach Eric (Robert Carlyle) to make him gain confidence and awareness on the football field. Mixing very good feelings, lightness and a soundtrack that alternates The Stone Roses with Fatboy Slim and The Chemical Brothers in featuring with Neal Gallagher (big fan of the Citizens!), the vision of Jimmy Grimble he reconciles us with the game of football. And he does it with skill and gentleness, with narrative intuition and with absolute knowledge of his own means. Not over the top yet passionate.

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Jimmy Grimble: a scene from the film

Watching it again now, the film John Hay explains how much football really was an added value to our days, how much it is an anthropological factor and synonymous with union and sharing. Clearly, and we don’t want to be monotonous, contemporary football has nothing to do with the emotion of the past. We are more disconnected, more distracted, more hurried. Unthinkable to play for hours and hours under water, not caring about the world when the whole world was there with you: a handful of friends, a colored shirt and a rolling ball. Supporting as a passion and not as a duty, business left to others, because a dream is priceless. Where did that desire go? Where have those unrepeatable moments gone? So Jimmy Grimble we can summarize it in a dazzling exchange of jokes. “What can be better than United?” – “Manchester City!”. Another era, another story, another magic for the best football film that (almost) nobody knows.

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