Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
Written by: Paul Mayeda Berges, Guljit Bindra, Gurinder Chadha
Starring: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anupam Kher
Two different cultures with similar restrictions become the unifying characteristic for the two protagonists of this story. One where they try to avert parent disapproval to achieve a dream that continually evades them. The fight becomes worth it because of a love for football. Bend it Like Beckham captures the love of the game with its whimsy.
Jess (Parminder Nagra) plays football with her friends, despite the wishes of her Indian parents, who wish she would focus on more important issues and have some sense of modesty. On the other hand, we have Jules (Keira Knightley), who has a supportive father with her dream to play football but a mother that wishes she would be more feminine. Their shared struggle brings them together on the pitch as they aspire to reach their potential.
As similar as Jess and Jules may be with their overall struggle in playing football, they have major differences on a racial scale. Jess needs to conform to the standard set before her by her Indian family, who set these restrictions for her own protection. Jules has all of the advantages of being a white English girl, who has at least one parent supporting them. As the film displays, Jules just needs to combat her mother’s remarks, while Jess must sneak out of her house to simply play a game of football with her friends and then eventually on the shared team with Jules. They have their similarities, but it’s important to point out that they have different mountains to climb.
Even with them having these issues to overcome, it’s coated in a beautifully 2000s style that feels very much of its era. Whether it be the obsession with David Beckham as the title indicates, or the music and hairstyling choices made with our leads. Everything in its construction makes it feel like a 2000s film and the attitude held in that recent decade. The film then brings that energy to the entire story and makes it a pleasure to watch.
Bend it Like Beckham was always going to connect with me because I enjoy football but never had close to the ability that Jess and Jules display in the film. It came to no surprise that Gurinder Chadha really made a splash with the film, as she provides a certain youthful energy into films that center on teenagers. Much like she would do in later films, Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and Blinded by the Light, she captures these insecurities and dreams they aspire to accomplish. For Jules and Jess, it happens to be playing football professionally, which already appears to be extremely difficult for women to get into due to the scarcity of opportunity as compared to men.
Their skill is unquestionably brilliant with the scenes that show Jess besting her male peers with her tremendous dribbling ability. It creates a respect for her from them, because she knows how to get past them and ultimately score. Chadha films the playing scenes very well in the way she focuses on them when they have the ball, making it a singular experience at first. It changes when they begin to play together and the camera shows that bond building between them after Jess gets the opportunity to play on an organized team.
Portraying our two protagonists are Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley, who both bring the goods in this movie. They both bring a maturity to their roles when needing to take on the more serious aspects but can let loose on the field to show their skill. Nagra, in particular, had more to do and it benefitted her, as she helped humanize the struggle of Jess. Someone who does not want to simply be arranged for a future marriage. Instead, she wants to have the autonomy to make her own decisions but to also just have some fun. She wants to be able to play football without her mother saying that she’s playing half-naked with boys. There are big cultural ideals she needs to shift as someone born in England as opposed to her parents who came from India showing two different generations having to collide on what the future will be. Knightley, even from a young age, brings such energy to her roles and does so again as Jules.
It will not take you long to see that Bend it Like Beckham was made in the 2000s and I love how it embodies the era in so many ways. That feeling may be coming from my own nostalgia when I had posters of my favorite athletes on my walls and the aspiration to play professionally in my favorite sports. This film has several inspiring and touching moments that help make Jess and Jules all the more endearing and worth rooting for. This film’s success and notoriety remains earned as it still captures a great aura and fun nature to societal issues that befall both of these teenage girls.