Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
Written by:Paul Mayeda Berges, Guljit Bindra, Gurinda Chadha
Starring: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Anupam Kher, Archie Panjabi
Released: July 4, 2002
Grade: A

When it comes to recognising a good film, word-of-mouth is usually your best guide.  A film can win a trophy cabinet full of awards and/or receive universal approval from critics but who’s to say it’ll appeal to the general public?  Bend It Like Beckham has become an amazing success story.  Costing just £3.5m, it’s already recouped three times that amount in the UK.  TV ads and newspapers spout quotes like it’s “set to be this year’s Billy Elliot” and “the best British comedy since Bridget Jones’s Diary.”  Its most surprising credential came a few weeks ago when it was voted audience favourite at the Sydney International Film Festival.

On the verge of completing high-school, tomboy Jess Bhamra (Nagra) loves playing soccer.  From an Indian upbringing, Jess’s parents have decided it’s time for her to settle down and find a husband.  Kicking around a football with some friends in a park, she meets Jules (Knightley), an English girl who plays for the local women’s team.  Jess didn’t even know there were teams for girls and when Jules asks her to try out, she immediately finds her place.  She’s a natural and becomes a star player in the rising team whilst catching the eye of the young coach, Joe (Rhys-Meyers).

The problem is, Jess’s parents know nothing of this.  The fact that their daughter prefers to play soccer rather than learning how to cook would bring much shame to the family.  But as time goes on, it’s becoming too difficult to hide.  Jess’s sister is getting married and there’s a lot of time to be spent preparing under the watchful eye of her mother.  Training sessions are being missed and with scouts from U.S. colleges looking to offer scholarships, the opportunity of Jess’s life could be slipping away...

Bend It Like Beckham is a non-stop roller-coaster fun ride.  There’s barely a dull moment and the film appreciates whilst seeing the humorous side of the Indian culture.  The film itself was directed by rising Indian director Gurinder Chadra who made 1993’s Bhaji On The Beach.  The soccer is very enjoyable too.  It doesn’t overshadow the screenplay nor degenerate it into a mere “sport flick”.  There’s a great film score from Craig Pruess that encompasses much Indian music with a few nice touches thrown in.  Seeing Jess kick a match-winning goal to an opera tune is a perfect illustration.

Our two leading characters, Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley, are a wonderful duo.  They immediately become best friends despite coming from completely different races and cultures.  Most films of this nature would waste time exploring outsider’s negative perceptions of such a friendship.  Not so here and it’s refreshing to see Chadra bypass this overused cliché.

I had a smile on my face for the entire duration of Bend It Like Beckham and hey, I’m not that easy to please.  It truly is the feel-good movie of the year and certainly explains the sold out session in which I had the opportunity to first see it.  Well go forth and spread the word.  It seems everybody else is.