I went into this one blind. I didn’t know who Bert Trautmann was. And as I settled in for this film, it struck me as a run of the mill paint by numbers, Hallmark kind of romance film. A perfectly British concoction as predictable and comforting as a cup of tea. The second half of the film changed all of that for me, and learning it was a true story lent it a rousing cheer from my heart.
David Kross, plays Trautmann, a German soldier who the British capture during the events of the second World War. And he is delivered to a POW camp in Lancashire, England. I had never really considered that. Most films that feature a POW camp feature the Allies trying to put one over on the Nazis as they escape. Jack Friar (John Henshaw) sees Trautmann tend goal. And he signs the captured soldier out of the camp for his football team. This happens under the sharp, and angry eye of Sergeant Smythe (Harry Melling – is this guy ever going to get a chance to play a ‘nice’ guy? Though his arc in this film is understandable).
From there, the film, initially follows a predictable path. Trautmann comes into conflict with some of the other players over his nationality and the horrors of the war. He falls for Friar’s daughter, Margaret (Freya Mavor) and romance and football ensue.
Until he is picked up by Man City and their coach, Jock Thompson (Gary Lewis). Amidst hate, and lingering anger over the war, Trautmann has to prove himself on the pitch with every game. And we are right there with him, as it gives us an understanding of the man from the beginning of the film. We see him question his actions in the war, in fact the film goes out of its way to make him empathetic. He carries a gun in the war, but we never see him shoot it. A galvanizing moment haunts him, and that revisits him through the film.
As I said, all of this plays out in a predictable fashion during the first half of the film. The story moves chronologically into the 50s, specifically the FA Cup in 1956. Things take a powerful and tragic turn for Trautmann and Margaret, and tragedy obscures moments of triumph. It’s absolutely stunning.
The first half of the film almost lulls you with a sense of comfort. That cup of tea warming your insides as the rain streaks your windows. You let it in, accept it, enjoy it, think you’ll be able to pass it on and move on to your next cup of in short order. But the events of the second half of the film, break the china cup of tea. It makes you realize how much you’ve grown to like these characters, and how involved you’ve become with the story.
The Keeper scores!
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance, Sport, War
- Release Date: 10/02/2020
- Directed by: Marcus H. Rosenmüller
- Starring: David Kross, Freya Mavor, Gary Lewis, Harry Melling, Michael Socha
- Produced by: Chris Curling, Robert Marciniak, Steve Milne
- Written by: Marcus H. Rosenmüller, Nicholas J. Schofield
- Studio: British Film Company, Lieblingsfilm, Zephyr Films