The biggest compliment I can pay Jonny Owen’s documentary about the Welsh football team’s 2016 European Championship campaign is that, as somebody who has no idea or real passion when it comes to football, it kept me entertained and enthralled throughout. Like all great documentaries, this is produced in such a way that you don’t need to have an invested interest or knowledge in the subject matter to enjoy (although I’m sure it certainly helps if you do) due to the universal themes of patriotism, passion and pride.
Some may criticise the very existence of this film, citing the team’s ultimate failure at the Euros as a cause of embrassement as opposed of celebration. But the truth of the matter is that the story of a sporting team rising from virtual obscurity to capture the hearts of fans worldwide, regardless of a win or a lose, has been embedded in the DNA of sporting pictures since the beginning of cinema. It sounds cliché, but it really is the taking part that counts and this, just like the classics such as Rocky, has an admirable central message that says “losing is okay, as long as you’ve given it your very best”.
One of the film’s biggest successes is the way in which Owens expands the story away from the game itself, tying in a number of different threads that make for a richer experience. Beginning with the shocking death of former manager, Gary Speed, and the effect it had on the team in both a psychological and practical way, the film then goes on to look at the various impacts of the team’s campaign. As well as analysing each game, there’s stories about the way in which fans at home and abroad embraced the Championship, behind the scenes footage of how the players spent their time off of the pitch, and even some stuff about the age-old England-Wales rivalry; all of which, it has to be said, is handled with great humour.
The film has been made, first and foremost, for the fans – my younger brother who spent the summer in France supporting the team, loved this – so much so that it received a round of applause from the audience I saw this with. But, perhaps most importantly, Don’t Take Me Home is excellent in its own right; it doesn’t matter if you’re Welsh or a football fan, this is charming, witty, extraordinarily uplifting, and will leave you on a high regardless.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com