The Keeper: The man who played an FA Cup final with a broken neck

Review: You’d have to work very hard to kill the story of Bert Trautmann

Bert Trautmann is played with humble charm by David Kross

Film Title: The Keeper

Director: Marcus H Rosenmüller

Starring: David Kross, Freya Mavor, Dervla Kirwan, John Henshaw, Harry Melling, Dave Johns

Genre: Sport

Running Time: 119 min

Fri, Apr 5, 2019, 05:00

   

You’d have to work very hard to kill the story of Bert Trautmann. Indeed, it is astonishing that we are only now seeing a biopic of the former German prisoner of war who became a successful goalkeeper for Manchester City. This was the same man who played the last 17 minutes of the 1956 FA Cup final with a broken neck.

There are, mind you, times when one suspects Marcus H Rosenmüller really is trying to sabotage his own movie. There aren’t many contemporary films that still spin newspaper headlines towards the audience. The decision to have Bert’s future wife care for birds in cages while he is still in the camp earns The Keeper a slap from the metaphor police. There is some questionable use of footage from Belsen to press home unforgotten realities.

For the most part, however, this is a delightful slab of Hovis, commercial filmmaking that efficiently orders the vital elements in Trautmann’s story. Played with humble charm by David Kross, Bert is still in detention when Jack Friar (the perennially amusing John Henshaw) spots him at a kickabout and signs him for Saint Helen’s Town. He really did marry Jack’s daughter, elect to stay in England and secure a place at Manchester City.

The film, which features Northern Irish locations such as the grounds of Glentoran and Cliftonville, summons up a convincingly cosy version of Lancashire in the post-war years.

The story’s underlying message has ended up more relevant than the film-makers can ever have anticipated. Trautmann was initially pelted with abuse, but, thanks in no small part to support from Manchester’s sizeable Jewish community, he came to be seen as an force for reconciliation.

Another of the clunkier subplots has an implausibly posh sergeant major stand-in for the Little Englander views that Bert had to fight against. You can see where this is going. The Keeper ends in a state of relative concord that grinds awkwardly against the current Brexit discontent. 

You can’t get away from it.

Opens April 5th