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The Home Game – Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review

The Home Game – Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review

In 1996, the small Icelandic town of Hellissandur (current population: 369) entered a team into their country’s F.A Cup Draw, with the simple ambition of playing a match on the pitch the whole community had built together. Unfortunately, they drew an away game, and although they were facing a team called ‘Golfclub of Grindavik’ (which makes you think that maybe football wasn’t their forte…)  they lost 10-0, and were out of the competition. Disappointed and embarrassed, Vidar, who spearheaded the project, put his love of football to one side. The pitch, once the object of such communal excitement, started gathering dust.

Fast forward to 2020 (one of the most joyful things about this lovely documentary is that somehow, it presents an event that managed to completely evade the grip of Covid), and Vidar’s son Kari has decided to achieve the dream that his father couldn’t. With the 1996 players far too old and out-of-shape, and many of the town’s football fans only in their early teens, fielding a team proves a difficult task. Still, all they want is a match on their beloved home pitch, whatever the score.

Spoiler alert: they achieve that goal. Like Kari, The Home Game is so modest in its ambitions the fact of the game simply taking place on that pitch is enough to achieve them, a possibility that always had a 50/50 chance. The town’s ecstatic joy when they get the word they’ve succeeded is sweet and infectious.

Yet in an all-too-human way, their attention swiftly turns to the far more distant possibility of maybe, just maybe, winning the game. Sure, knowing that their competitor is sixty places above them in the tournament makes that seem unlikely, but what’s that they say about reaching for the stars? As we follow them on the months leading up to the match, we see the team cohering from the messy beginnings (a player at one of those first matches: “Does anyone know where the defibrillator is kept?”) to a unit that’s a whole lot tighter, and speedier. Perhaps their hope isn’t entirely unfounded…

Still, even as they start daring to dream bigger, the central purpose of Kari’s mission is always front and centre. He recruits a woman, Freydis, to play, determined to have her on the field despite the fact it’s against the FA’s rules. When Vidar was teaching kids in the nineties, there were simply not enough of them to have separate gender teams, so Freydis was welcomed on to the pitch and proved herself over and over again; Kari is determined to continue that tradition, even if it risks the game. You could call it tokenism, but considering how very much this match is about honouring the town and their history and the way the team is bringing everyone together, it feels more than that. She belongs there as much as anyone from the close-knit community of Hellissandur.

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Abundantly endearing and radiantly uplifting, The Home Game will charm even those who don’t give two hoots about football. Don’t be surprised to see a Hollywood remake on the way soon.


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