8 out of 10
A Wimbledon Title
Frustrated by his encroaching age and yet now only ranked 119th despite endless competition and touring, the blocked and uninspired tennis player Peter Colt (played by Paul Bettany), faces his final opportunity to seek a Wimbledon title, but finds love in this production by Working Title Films, the creators of Notting Hill.
Facing a fairly certain future of coaching little old ladies, he meets driven American spitfire Lizzy Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), a no-holds-barred player, seeking her first Wimbledon title. Love blossoms and Peter's performance improves as Lizzy's deteriorates, throwing their relationship into jeopardy as they realize they may face a choice between their love for each other and their game.
By conveying the player's inner pathos, backed up by striking cinematography, the audience is drawn into the matches by the truly personalized nature of the story as Peter tries to pull ahead. Intense and unique, the use of colour is brilliant and range of technical shots, including freeze frame, balls-eye-view, animation, differential focusing, slow motion and a whole panacea of camera techniques create an heightened sense of the game and atmosphere which gives the viewer a front row experience. With each shot exciting, hard hitting and climactic, the matches are an effective balance to the romantic and make the Wimbledon Tournament (usually as exciting as a golf match) absorbing theatre even for those who usually have no real interest in the game.
The romance, likewise, is also kept in check by the humorous antics of Peter's brother Carl, the tennis ladies, Peter's stereotypical agent (Jon Farveau), permanently evading his ex-wives and with a mobile phone attached to his ear, and parents who's marriage is so dysfunctional that his father lives in a treehouse in the backyard.
Similar to Notting Hill and Four Weddings and A Funeral, Wimbledon features a large cast of well-known actors in bit parts and supporting roles including Eleanor Bron (Absolutely Fabulous, Vanity Fair and a stalwart of British magazine programmes), Bernard Hill (the King of Mordor in Lord of the Rings), Robert Lindsay (Citizen Smith, My Family), Celia Emerie (Dinnerladies, Bridget Jones) and Sam Neill (The Piano, Jurassic Park), as well as the voices of John McEnroe, Chris Evert and Danny Baker.
Although it seemed short, and sporting films often contain the weight of predictability, this most English of movies, not only remained fresh, but also had a certain depth encompassing all the various aspects of the tournament, from the keen ball-boys and cucumber sandwiches to the superstition and the rapacious press.
Film Critic: Jennifer M Lillies