Wondrous Oblivion

Wondrous Oblivion


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

A film about cricket, attempting to emulate the success of Bend It Like Beckham, may have its time cut out. Has anyone heard of Gary Sobers?

Of course, it's not really about cricket, although the boy at its centre dotes on the game; it's about race relations, petty-minded prejudice, the English disease of fearing the foreigner.

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David Wiseman is 11, the son of Polish Jews, living in South London and attending a prestigious day school, where they take their cricket seriously. For someone so keen, who knows the names of every international player, going back to W G Grace, he is surprisingly inept on the field and ends up as the scorer for the First XI.

When a West Indian family move in next door and construct a cricket net in the back garden, he's over there in a trice, despite his father, who owns a tailoring establishment and works all hours, warning him, "These are not our kind of people. We have nothing against them. But we don't mix."

Dennis (Delroy Lindo) coaches his youngest daughter, when he comes home from the foundry, and now David as well. His approach to the game is entirely positive, unlike the authoritarian conformity at school, where masters dictate and boys meekly comply: "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." In this little South London garden, cricket is fun and David learns so quickly that he gives up scoring and is allocated a place in the team.

Meanwhile - and this is a "meanwhile" movie - his mother (Emily Woof) is attracted to the physical authority and easy grace of her next door neighbour. For years, ever since she married as a teenager, she has felt obliged to comply to her husband's wishes - dinner on the table at a certain hour, careful handling of the household budget, no personal treats - without allowing herself the privilege of independent pleasure: "Nobody taught me to be a woman."

At the same time, both families are being subjected to racial abuse and having poison pen notes stuffed through their letter boxes. The year is 1960, when the West Indies were the best cricketers on earth and the words "Yid" and "nigger" in common parlance.

Paul Morrison's film recreates the subversive undercurrents of suspicion within a white working-class community extremely well, in addition to celebrating the dignity and perseverance of the new immigrants. Lindo, whose parents came from Jamaica, is especially fine. There seems no limits to his abilities, even bowling from a three yard run. Woof, also, excels, touching a raw nerve within the psyche of a repressed romantic.

The scenes at the school are unconvincing, as is almost everything concerning cricket, with the exception of Lindo, surprisingly enough. The quality of performance on the pitch would embarrass a Sunday team of girls. No-one takes guard at the wicket and the outfield is as rough as a public park. If David's First XI was as bad as it looks - 11-year-old cricketers from schools that care about the game know how to play strokes and even spin the ball - they should take up croquet.

Reviewed on: 17 Aug 2003
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Wondrous Oblivion packshot
Racial prejudice in South London, circa 1960, is relieved by cricket coaching in the back garden.
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Read more Wondrous Oblivion reviews:

David Haviland ***1/2
Keith Hennessey Brown ***1/2

Director: Paul Morrisson

Writer: Paul Morrisson

Starring: Delroy Lindo, Emily Woof, Stanley Townsend, Sam Smith, Angela Wynter, Leonie Elliott, Leagh Conwell, Dominic Barklem, Yasmin Paige, Petra Letang

Year: 2003

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK


EIFF 2003

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