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Sports in the Movies: Bend It Like Beckham

With all the excitement of the Olympics, we forgot to write about National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) which is always on a day during the first week in February. This day is to recognize the importance of sports for girls and women.  To make up for that, I wanted to write about Bend It Like Beckham. This movie is a great example of how sports can be important in the self-esteem and self-identity of girls and women. It is also on Rolling Stone’s list of best sports movies.

The title of the 2002 movie can be a little misleading in that it refers to a young woman’s desire to play soccer (football) like her hero, David Beckham, rather than being a movie about David Beckham, who only shows up briefly. Interestingly, the title can be taken several ways. First, it can mean that the main character wants to have Beckham’s “signature” skill, to kick the ball so that it moves in a seemingly impossible curved fashion.  The other meaning is that she wants to bend the rules in her favor so she can make the life that she wants to lead.

This film, written, produced, and directed by Gurinder Chadha, explores the life of a young Indian woman, Jesminder (Jess), in England, who has an overwhelming desire to play soccer. She finds that her desires are opposed to her mother’s and her society’s expectations, that a young Indian woman should have a respectable career, marry an Indian boy, and learn to cook traditional Indian food for her family. Jess meets Jules, a member of the local women’s soccer club, who encourages her to join the team. Jess’s father has his own reasons for not wanting her go into sports. He does not want her to experience the physical and mental trauma that he experienced as a top cricket contender. There are many ups and downs, but overall we see how important it is to Jess to be the best player she can be and to have the opportunity to succeed or lose on her own terms.

The film met with largely excellent reviews and demonstrated the great talents of the director, Chadha, and the two main actresses, Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightly.  The film is rated PG-13, so some themes and language may make it inappropriate for younger audiences.


About Allen Bryan

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