Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
For better or for worse… Gerry (Beattie) and Sewell (McLane) are a couple of apprentice foot soldiers of the Toon Army – meaning that, as low-expectation truant school kids, they shouldn’t have a hope in hell of finding the £1,000 they need for a season ticket to see their beloved Newcastle United FC. Indomitable, they agree to lay off the tabs and the glue, and undertake a long hard fund-raising campaign. They tout scrap metal; they try robbing Everything’s-a-Pound stores; they even beseech Alan Shearer for help. Mostly, though, they abide with the distractions of real life: simple or sickly parental figures, brutal errant dads, ineffective social workers, scornful teachers, fickle girlfriends, street psychos and their own facility for fucking up.
Given the growing inequities between the big showbiz football clubs and their old proleterian fans, you’d not blame writer-director Herman for expounding the sort of angry polemic that gave his Brassed Off its biting edge. That’s implicit in this lively adaptation of Jonathan Tulloch’s novel The Season Ticket, but mostly Herman couches his social judgements in broad-minded comic observation. The comedy is patchily successful, but it’s the film’s immediate affection and empathy for its wayward young protagonists that really plays. There’s none of the empty triumphalism of most sports movies here, just a whole lot of mixed-ºup life. Engaging. — Nick Bradshaw, Time Out, 1/11/00
Purely Belter is a lively, coarse, often very funny film with a brief appearance by Alan Shearer as himself (the lads steal his sportscar for a joyride in the country) and no concessions over matters of dialect (the title is Geordie for ‘as good as it gets’).
This kind of state-of-the-nation movie has been around since the 1980s and used to be called ‘The Cinema of Thatcher’s Britain’. Which suggests that as far as moviemakers are concerned, the difference between Blair’s Britain and Thatcher’s is the same as the traditional distinction between capitalism and communism – under one system man exploits man; under the other, it’s the other way around. — Philip French, The Observer, 5/11/00