In a era of football when nearly every Premiereship team comprises of non British players and no one really blinks an eye The keeper transports us back to an era when there was almost open revulsion that the German Bert Trautmann was sneaked into playing for a local northern football team. But this was 1944 when Trautmann was a second world war POW living in a UK camp run by a thin lipped, jug eared, boss eyed bastard of a British officer Sergeant Smythe (Harry Melling). It’s whilst Trautmann (David Kross) has an impromptu game of football with the other players that delivery man Jack friar (John Henshaw) and his daughter Margaret (Freya Mavor) notice his goalkeeping skills. If it wasn’t that Friar was the manager of a local struggling football team Trautmann would have been overlooked but Friar strikes a deal with the commanding officer to have Trautmann play for his team before being returned to the POW camp each day.
Trautmann her comes across as a decent man and it’s the Brits who perhaps understandably hold so much contempt for him having come out of a war with the country still on its knees with rationing and general impoverishment and that Trautmann has been awarded an Iron Cross does little to endear him to the locals. But it’s Margaret, who he assists around the store as a general handyman that starts to realise he’s not the stereotype that she has painted in her mind and who the village demonize. Head strong and opinionated her frosty front starts to thaw towards him and she has a speech which epitomizes just why there is so much hatred for him and the film.
However many may not realize that the story of Bert Trautmann is a true story and the second half of the film covers his rise in post war Britain becoming a professional goalkeeper for Man City eventually winning the 1956 FA cup incredibly playing the entire match with a broken neck.
But it’s the second half of the film that contrasts sharply with the first half which is an utter joy especially with John Henshaw, an actor who excels at bluff Northerners and is a face familiar to British audiences and again is great in this type of role he is so expert at playing. Dave Johns, much like in the recent Fisherman’s Friends is underused as is Dervla Kirwan in underwritten roles. But this first half is hugely enjoyable whereas the second half takes a decidedly mores sombre tone with a marriage to Margaret in a love story that rapidly accelerates with a marriage glossed over from a not fully love story. But from her it becomes a football film a difficult genre to get right and is played out against a back ground of tragedy and prejudice. It’s a mark of the times that the football players of the day were as dedicated to smoking as they were to football whereas today’s footballers are more committed to huge transfer fees and spit roasting teenage girls in hotel rooms.
Kross is quietly underplays the role as he fights the xenophobia and Mavor shows promise of great things to come as seen in last year’s Dead in a Week. The Keeper is written and directed by Marcus H Rosenmuller and as it changes tone where he uses a series of flashbacks to an incident that Trautmann was present at and which haunts him throughout his life. It’s not wholly necessary and has borrowed heavily from Schindler’s List. However Rosenmuller has mad a film which refreshingly humanizes Germans whereas the Brits initially are sen here as xenophobic little Englanders. But that aside in football terms The Keeper is a game of two halves.
Here’s The Keeper trailer…….