25 August 2012 | gradyharp
'You don't win if you don't pull together!'
This bright and shining little film was made by BBC as a docudrama of sorts, likely produced to gain the attention of a story from England's history with the Olympic Games: it is a true story of an event form the 1948 Olympic Games but it is far more than that, and as such it deserves wide audience recognition as an exceptional, touching film about sportsmanship, friends, commitment, and father and son relationships. As written by William Ivory and directed by David Blair, this little BBC special, known in England by the title BERT & DICKIE, is a quiet homage to all that is good about human interaction.
The time is postwar 1948 London where despite lingering rationing and austerity measures the first Olympic Games after the war is to be held. The members of England's government quibble about not having sufficient funds to host the event while the treasury's public relations officers see the Games as a potential source of tourist income and a chance to demonstrate to the world (especially to the Yanks!) that England is still a significant power. Areas for the various aspects of the games are quickly assembled with meager funds, the athletes are given jerseys with the country's emblem, but they must supply their own shorts, and categories such as Etching competition are added to beef up the agenda. The working class son of a boat builder and slightly-built, Bert Bushnell (Matt Smith) knows he's got what it takes to represent his country in the single sculls and is upset when former Olympian medalist and innovative organizer Jack Beresford (James Frain) pairs him with journalist Dickie Burnell (Sam Hoare), whose privileged background he despises. Their initial poor performance sees them at odds but, after Bert has convinced Dickie that their boat needs alterations, their prowess and mutual respect increases. On the eve of the games a nervous Dickie is given confidence by Bert's father (Douglas Hodge) and applies a little of his own cunning to ensure a path to the finals. Ultimately Bert also seeks reassurance from Dickie's father (Geoffrey Palmer), both elders having Olympic secrets of their own, and the pair go on to beat the favored Danish duo and win the Olympic gold medal for duo skulls. It is a story of the disparity of the classes in England and the miscommunication between fathers and sons that is healed by overcoming differences and working together to resolve histories that are changing with the post war world.
The supporting cast is superb with Anastasia Hille as Bert's opera loving, non-interfering mother, Sara Vickers as Bert's girlfriend Margaret, Nathan Wiley as the Yank sportsman Jack Kelly, and others. Yes, it is a strong film about the history of the Olympic Games and their importance in international camaraderie, but it is even stronger as a story of how men - sons and fathers can come together despite the moat of pride that initially surrounds them. Highly recommended.