Women playing football and being really fantastic at it? No, I’m not talking about the Women’s World Cup in 2015 where USA and England did amazingly, despite playing on AstroTurf. I’m talking about the comedy/drama from 1998, Bend It Like Beckham, the late 90’s, kicking sexism to the side, yes that was a football pun.
This is the review for Bend It Like Beckham. It starts off with footage of Manchester United playing Anderlecht. Beckham passes the ball to Jess Bhamra, who headers into the goal. Jess, played by Parminder Nagra is the main character in the movie. Gary Lineker, playing himself, is sitting in a studio with two other retired footballers talking about Jess’s goal. They’re joined by Jess’s mum who blames them for encouraging her to play football. At this point in real life her mum walks into her room, Jess has drifted off while watching football. She tells Jess that her sister is getting married and she shouldn’t waste time on football. Jess goes downstairs to see her sister, Pinky who is more into fashion. The two are sent into town to pick up groceries for their mum.
In one of the main roads, there are a lot of grocery shops as well as clothing stores owned by people of Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin. Jess’s friend, Jules, played by Keira Knightly, is shopping with her mum. Pinky and Jess meet up with Jess’s friend, Tony who is shopping with his mum. Later on, Jules is running through the park while Jess is walking through it. Tony stops Jess and wants someone to help him in a friendly football match. Jules stops running to watch Jess play and she looks very impressive. The movement and style is amazing to watch. It’s just a little bit of football, but enough to get the attention of Jules. Jess gets fouled as the men playing make sexist remarks. She picks up the ball and hands it to one of the men, crotch first.
Later on she’s talking to a picture of Beckham and her dad walks in, Mr. Bhamra. He needs help putting up lights on the outside of the house, to signal that a wedding is happening soon. It’s still done now, I see it every summer. Inside, a dinner party is going on, men in suits and women in shalwar kameez, traditional Asian dresses. Pinky is seated next to her husband to be, Teetu. Jess has a tray of food and is handing out items from it to the guests as they tell her that she’s next to be married. This also still happens, due to my sharp wit, the aunties asking me are prevented from asking further questions.
The next day, Jess is playing in the park and is approached by Jules, who plays for the Hounslow Harriers girls and suggests that Jess should try to apply. The men who are currently playing with her continue to make sexist remarks as Jess ignores them and joins Jules. Jess turns up to try out and the coach, Joe, seems harsh towards her. Joe is played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers with a really thick Irish accent. He watches Jess in action and he is very impressed with her footwork. He says she’s on the team as long as her parents are okay with it. Jules is playing football with her dad in the garden as her mum walks out and tells her to be more like a girl. Her dad supports Jules wanting to play football, but her mum disagrees.
The team is warming up but Jess is sitting in the stands, she doesn’t want to wear shorts because of a scar she has. Joe comes over and talks about his scar. They have a nice little chat and she joins the other girls on the pitch. Afterwards she tells Tony about football practice and the other guys jest with her and she uses her football skills on them. One of the boys grabs her as her mum walks through the park and she sees it. They’re at home and her mum is giving her a lecture about boys. She says Jess is done playing with the boys. Her parents are relaxed and then Jess talks about joining a girls’ team. Her mum wants her to be a traditional girl, but Jess wants to play football. Her mum talks with her about bringing shame to the family, but her dad says nothing. The mum cares more about community and looking good in front of others and tries to scare Jess away from playing football.
After a conversation with Jules and Tony in the park, Jess decides to carry on with football, but in secret. She plays with her team against other teams and continues to hide it from her parents. The girls are talking about how hard it is to be a girl and play football and how much harder it is for Jess because of her ethnicity and culture. Pinky comes home to ask where Jess is and finds out that she has been playing football in secret. Preparations are still going on for the wedding and Jess goes for a day out with Jules around central London.
After practice, Jess goes to Jules’s house with her and they watch a video about American women’s football. Jules’s mum pops into her room and makes a few remarks about respect. Later on, Jess and Jules are at the bus stop, laughing and talking, but an auntie of Jess sees them from a car. Jess returns home to find the same judgmental auntie and uncle there, but they leave. Jess’s mum and dad lecture her about what was seen by the auntie. Jess looks over at Pinky, who is devastated and crying. They believe Jess was kissing some boy, but she was just playing around with her friend, Jules, and now the wedding is off. Jess starts missing practice and this concerns Joe. He goes to her house to speak with her parents about how great she is and apologizes that she hadn’t said a thing about practice. Pinky covers for Jess and the girls go to Germany for a game.
After the game, which they lose, they go to a club, but Jess leaves and is joined by Joe. They are about to kiss, but are interrupted by Jules, who is upset. When they get back, Jules is heartbroken in her room and Pinky tells Jess to go for Tony instead of Joe. Jess goes to see Jules, but the conversation is short. Jules is still angry about Germany and Jess leaves. Jules’s mum overhears some of it as she sits with her husband, crying. Jess meets up with Tony and talks about marriage. This is where Tony tells Jess that he’s gay and staying in the closet right now. Jess continues to play football in secret as Tony and his friends go to watch. His friends are being sexist and he calls them on it by saying, “Why can’t you just see them as footballers?” He’s absolutely right, no matter the players, the game is the game. Gender shouldn’t matter if you’re really good at your sport. This doesn’t just pertain to football, but other sports too.
On the pitch, Jess and Jules aren’t working as a team like they should be and the team suffers because of this. Mr. Bhamra, Jess’s dad, is in the stands. There’s some shirt pulling from the other team and Jess is called a racial slur, but the referee gives Jess a red card and she is sent off the pitch. Jess and Joe get into a heated argument about the referee’s decision, but Mr. Bhamra sees them. She goes home to Teetu sitting with his parents and Jess’s parents, the wedding is back on. With the wedding back on everyone is preparing, but the big game happens to be the same day as the ceremony. Jules goes to see Jess, but she can’t join the team again. She is taken off the team as she takes down all her football posters in her room. Joe speaks with Jules at practice and he is upset with her not being on the team anymore. At a pre wedding party, Mr Bhamra notices Joe outside and they talk about Jess and her talent. Joe leaves as Jess stops him. She then goes back in to join her family.
Wedding day has arrived, but so has the final. At the wedding, Tony tries to encourage Jess to leave, but she doesn’t. Her dad gives her permission to leave as a wedding band starts to play. A band I listened to when I was younger, still love that music.Tony drives Jess to the football match where she truly shines as well as Jules. The match itself is fun to watch as they catch up with the other team. There’s a foul on Jess and she’s taking a free kick. The other players form a wall, but all Jess can see are the other aunties and Pinky in her bridal outfit in the middle telling her that she’s useless. It’s fine though; she scores and wins it for the team. A football scout meets with Jess and Jules and offers them a scholarship. Later on, there’s a big argument at the house, but her dad stands up for her. Just because he suffered with another sport when he was younger doesn’t mean his daughter should have to go through the same thing.
Bend It Like Beckham is a really good film about culture, religion and respecting the right to let anyone play football. Jess fights and never gives up, regardless of her gender or ethnicity, talent is talent. It’s a wonderful film that you have to see. If you want to discuss this film further, you can find me on Twitter with the handle @immiebroods and if you haven’t seen it? Go watch it.