London, 1960. In a working-class south London community, an eleven-year-old Jewish boy lives for cricket. Young David keeps score for his school team, and even the characters in his trading card collection magically come to life. Unfortunately, he just can't play the game well himself. When a Jamaican family moves in next door and turns the backyard into a cricket court, David is ecstatic. The father (Delroy Lindo) offers to teach David the finer points of the game, and the pair forge a special relationship that transcends their cultural differences. Complaints from bigoted neighbors soon prompt David's mother to bar him from the cricket pitch, however, until her own emotional stirrings -- and the realization that she is an outsider too -- force her to reconsider. This heartwarming film beautifully captures the complexity of racial and religious divisions as seen through the eyes of children.
Director's Statement Collapse
This is a funny, warm, sharp and accessible coming-of-age film, in the spirit of Billy Elliot and East Is East. Despite the specificity of its time and place, it's a universal story, with universal values of acceptance and tolerance, an affirmation of the richness of heterogeneous identities. It's set at a historic moment poised between the conservative and cold-war '50s and the cultural and sexual revolution of the '60s, when Britain experienced large-scale immigration from the Caribbean, and began to be a multi-racial society. Visually and musically the film reflects this transition, starting with calypso and a '50s pop, moving on to ska and rock steady. A beginning that reflects David's dreaminess, somewhat drab and sad, costumes and hair more "'50s"--David cheerful and wondrously oblivious "in spite of" rather than because of his surroundings and circumstances--starts to burst with vibrancy, color and movement after the West Indians appear. And this excitement continues to build with the rising action up towards the birthday party. In the falling action, as David's new-built world crumbles, and the forces of denial and conservatism re-assert themselves, that '50s outsider look reminiscent of all those films about social class of the late '50s and early '60s starts to re-assert itself. And then, bam, the world turns again and in the resolution we are back to the gaiety and musical vibrancy, and looser hairstyles and clothing of the '60s. All the major characters in the film have a journey to make. I've tried to keep those journeys plausible and truthful. When I am directing I look to be ruthless with the writer in me. The story takes over and imposes its own demands, in working with the actors and again in the editing. All of us are servicing the story in the end. At one level the film is my vision and at another it's way beyond my conscious self, something else entirely, that imposes its own will. For all the contained-ness of the locations, it's a visual, action-oriented screenplay, and I have striven for visual bite and a defined look. Around the cricket, the film has a slightly magical, luminescent quality, the bright whites flowing into the rest of the surroundings, and picked up elsewhere. We've chosen to shoot much of the film in a studio (Shepperton) to have control over the lighting and to maintain a slightly super-real quality. It's not a kitchen sink movie. There's magic in it, and a boy's fantasies, and we've tried to make a magical and beautiful film, softening the contrasts here and there, looking for brightness and color. I like to spend a lot of time talking with the design team before we start to shoot. Nina and Eve and I have been careful with colors, choosing a swatch that is true to the period, and also reflects the moods of the two families. We've chosen to digitally grade to give us greater control of the colour look of the film, and to maximize the quality of the wide-screen super-35. For all that this is a movie set in 1960 Britain, it also has its heroic and epic moments. The widescreen lifts it into this bigger canvas. For a relatively low-budget yet period movie we've tried to give the film a sense of scale in whatever way we could.