“Bend It Like Beckham” explores the love of soccer by a teenager whose traditional Indian family disapproves of her playing the sport.
By Vanessa Zimmer
A noted soccer film — one that featured breakout performances by young actresses Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra — observes its 20th birthday this month. Bend It Like Beckham joins other alums of the Sundance Film Festival marking March theatrical releases to audiences in the film world.
Also eligible for birthday wishes are a revenge drama by Park Chan-wook, a satire by Jason Reitman, Josh Radnor’s writing and directing debut, and a teen horror film. Incidentally, Radnor’s film, Happythankyoumoreplease, won the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at the 2010 Festival.
Here’s an idea: How about baking just one big cake and hosting a movie-night marathon?
Bend It Like Beckham (2003) — Jess, a young Indian girl in England, loves soccer so much that she wants to play professionally like her idol, British standout David Beckham. Against her traditional family’s wishes, she pursues her beloved game competitively. The film is directed and co-writter by Gurinder Chadha. “Delightfully colorful characters, great cinematography (notably during the matches), and breakout performances by two young actresses, Parminder Nagra (Jess) and Keira Knightley (Jules Paxton), elevate Bend It Like Beckham beyond the familiar and into the memorable,” wrote Trevor Groth in the Festival Program Guide. Available on Peacock.
Oldboy (2005) — This award-winning Korean revenge drama by director (and co-writer) Park Chan-wook follows Oh Dae-su, a businessman inexplicably imprisoned in a drab hotel room for 15 years — and then suddenly released. The performance of the lead actor in this Midnight selection was widely praised. “Choi Min-sik gives a mesmerizing performance; at first awash in loss and anger, his pitiful self-awareness is ultimately crushing,” wrote John Nein in the Festival Program Guide. “And to watch Choi — his inscrutable smile or helpless weeping, his face adorned with emotions so raw and immediate — is a pure revelation.” Available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Thank You for Smoking (2006) — Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) can spin any story, and it’s a good thing — because he is the chief spokesperson for the tobacco industry. He is tasked with turning around public opinion about smoking cigarettes. Jason Reitman directs this hilarious satire, basing his script on the novel by a master of that game, Christopher Buckley. Consider just this one aspect of this clever story: Nick’s best friends are an alcohol lobbyist and a gun advocate, and they call themselves the Merchants of Death. Available on Hulu.
Happythankyoumoreplease (2011) — Josh Radnor (of television’s How I Met Your Mother) wrote, directed, and stars in this story of young New Yorkers encountering the hard reality of life. The film won the Festival’s U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. “With honesty and humor, Radnor captures a generational moment — young people on the cusp of truly growing up, struggling for connection, and hoping to define what it means to love and be loved,” wrote David Courier in the Festival Program Guide. See Radnor’s Meet the Artist video here. Available on Plex, Roku Channel, and Tubi.
It Follows (2015) — A Midnight selection at the Sundance Film Festival, this teen horror film has Maika Monroe playing a young woman who, after having sex with a new boyfriend, is followed by a malevolent force. “[Writer-director] David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows is one of the most original indie films in years and an unrelentingly creepy experience that pairs edge-of-your-seat suspense with a beautifully poetic exploration of teenage sexual anxiety, yearning, and jealousy,” wrote John Nein in the Festival Program Guide. Available on Netflix.