Sean of the Sheffield United
"Aye, life's ard op Norf" or so the makers behind some of Britain's most popular films would like to have us believe. For ever since the run away success of the hilarious "The Full Monty" a trend has arisen to stereotype the Northern population as working class labourers who spend their days slaving away in factories or down the pits, supping beer in the local pub and generally having a moan about their circumstances. Whilst "The Full Monty" may have been one of the most successful within this niche Northern genre, there was a predecessor in the form of 1996's "When Saturday Comes", a drama about the hopes and dreams of a working class man who dreams of playing for his beloved Sheffield United football team. It may not be in the same league as "The Full Monty" but in its own right is a worth while drama which concentrates on the feelings and aspirations of the central character instead of satirizing Northern life.
As a young lad, Jimmy Muir (Sean Bean - National Treasure) dreamed of becoming a professional footballer, but now in his mid 20s and still living at home with his parents, it seems that his dream has passed him by, spending his days in a dead end job at a Sheffield brewery and drinking with his mates from a Sunday football team. But his luck seems to change when not only does he start dating the attractive Annie (Emily Lloyd) but he is also spotted by the manager of a semi-professional football team who believes he has a chance at his dream. Given the opportunity for a try out for his beloved Sheffield United it looks that at long last he will get a shot at his dream.
Although the plot is anything but original and follows the path that many other movies have followed, signalling a feel good finale way before we get anywhere near the climax, "When Saturday Comes" still manages to entertain through a well constructed plot and the passionate performances of its cast. Set around the industrial city of Sheffield, the movies focus is the character of Jimmy, your typical manual labourer who enjoys nothing more than a drink with his mates, eyeing up anything in a skirt and of course his regular knockabout for his Sunday football team. Whilst "When Saturday Comes" quickly sets up the back ground to our main character, and in doing so manages to make us associate ourselves with his situation, it also wastes no time in getting into the main thrux of the story which focuses on his sudden turn of luck.
Of course "When Saturday Comes" is not just going to be a smooth ride from having no future to living the dream as this would make for a pretty dull movie in anyone's books. So along the way the story rides a small wave of peaks and troughs as Jimmy's luck seems to change for better and worse, which ties in nicely a selection of sub plots which includes the relationships he has with his new girlfriend as well as his parents. Whilst these subplots are again not overly original they add a nice amount of depth and are pivotal to the overall outcome of the movie instead of just being included to pad out the story. In fact the turbulent relationship he has with his father adds some real meaning to what could be construed as just another stereotypical feel good movie.
Of course with "When Saturday Comes" being a movie which revolves around the sport of football, it is no surprise that it features numerous action scenes involving the glorious game. But surprisingly it tends to not focus over heavily on this sporting element until the actual finale at which point the movie falls into complete predictability, drawing numerous comparisons to many other sporting movies. From the emotional finale, which has huge similarities to the finale in "Escape to Victory" through to the "Rocky" style training sequence that sees Jimmy pushing himself to the limits, pounding the Sheffield streets to achieve his dream. All of which may sound quite cliché but in reality this is just a small part of a movie which tends to focus more on the drama off the field that on.
Despite the plot tending to be cliché and unoriginal, it is the characters which really make the movie tick. With Sean Bean putting in an absolutely stunning performance as our down trodden hero, Jimmy, I would not be surprised if this character had been created with Sean in mind. Not only does he look realistic in the scenes involving the football side of the story, but he manages to take make you empathize with his character as he suffers misfortune. Although Sean Bean is undoubtedly the star of "When Saturday Comes", the lovely Emily Lloyd holds her own as his girlfriend Annie. What is particularly nice is that whilst most of the characters are your traditional stereotypical Northern folk, Annie is in fact Irish and a bit of a fire cracker with it, giving Jimmy as good as he gives.
With these two managing quite brilliantly between them to make "When Saturday Comes" both enjoyable and entertaining, the movie does not lack from a brilliant set of supporting characters. From Jimmy's down trodden mother and his chauvinist father through to the enthusiastic Peter Postlethwaite as the manager who discovers the talented Jimmy. What I also found strangely enjoyable was the number of familiar faces playing supporting roles from the bloke who was Billy Boswell in the 80s TV comedy "Bread" through to Steve Huison who went on to play Lomper in "The Full Monty" and Dave Hill who has since been in "Eastenders".
Despite this being her directional debut, Maria Giese, who also wrote the story, has done a very good job of capturing the atmosphere of the movie. Right from the beautifully shot opening sequence which features a young boy playing keepy upy in the grim back streets of Sheffield, through to the cliché but enjoyable Rocky-esque training session. The only point where I felt a touch of disappointment was in the obvious button pressing climax with heavily uses a selection of slow motion shots to emphasize its' point and deliver that feel good factor.
What this all boils down to is that Whilst "When Saturday Comes" may suffer slightly from using over predictable plot lines and cinematic sequences from other more successful movies, it still manages to deliver a remarkably successful drama which effectively demonstrates the stereotypical look of Northern life. Whilst the drama and the plot are both well worked, the real pleasure of watching this truly comes from the characters as well as the performances of not just Sean Bean and Emily Lloyd but from the whole cast.