In the summer of 1966, England is about to be consumed by World Cup Fever. For 12 year-old Bernie (Gregg Sulkin) though, the biggest day of his life is looming: his Bar Mitzvah, and the day he becomes a man. However, Bernie's mum and dad, Esther and Manny (Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Marsan) are increasingly distracted by the threat of losing their business, and Bernie's older brother Alvi (Ben Newton) is totally disinterested in Bernie's life. So the scale of Bernie's Bar Mitzvah diminishes daily. Worst of all the Cup Final is scheduled to take place on the same day - July 30 - and when England makes it through the qualifying rounds, Bernie's longed for Bar Mitzvah looks set to be a complete disaster...
Review by Louise Keller:
'You need a lot of balls to make up for no foreskin,' we are told, and 12 year old Bernie has to dig deep to find gumption to cope with the hiccups that surface unexpectedly before his long awaited Bar Mitzvah. Darkly funny, poignant and engaging, Sixty Six sucks us into a world filled with anticipation, disappointment and hope, as a young boy's dreams stumble against the odds of family, finances and the World Cup soccer finals. Paul Weiland's keenly observed story is full of heart and painful truths, as Bernie bruises from every bump in the road to manhood, and discovers the precious and priceless relationship with his father.
The all important backdrop is the family environment, where every difficult detail is magnified for Bernie (Gregg Sulkin). With his distinctively anxious facial expressions, Eddie Marsan plays Bernie's father Manny, a fastidiously obsessive grocery store owner who eats his meals in his underwear because he doesn't like stains. Manny loves his family, but has no idea how to be a good Dad, and secretly worries that his wife Esther (Helena Bonham Carter) wishes she had married his congenial, joke-telling brother Jimmy (Peter Serafinowicz). There are two other men in Bernie's life and he is not crazy about either of them. Stephen Rea's asthma specialist Dr Barrie tells him 'According to this, you're dead,' as Bernie huffs and puffs into an asthma apparatus, and his blind Rabbi works him hard and seemingly pointlessly. All Bernie wants is for the most important life affirming event in his life to arrive. Then he will be a man. He will be important, receive loads of presents, and will gain the respect of his father.
Weiland sets the scene beautifully as Bernie's world begins to unravel like a wayward ball of string: from the financial crisis that befalls the family to the devastating date clash of his Bar Mitzvar with the 1966 World Cup final. In his film debut, Sulkin is perfect as the bewildered Bernie who is the only person living in England who does not want England to reach the Grand Final. When the big day arrives, nothing turns out the way he expects. But, there are a couple of surprises, and sometimes surprises bring a father and son together.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The meshing of Jewish black humour and the soccer World Cup is an oddball enough conceit, and the screenplay milks the Jewishness while delivering the real thing in soccer. At least it's different, and there is some laugh out loud material if you're on the right wavelength. A wedding speech strung together with death and illness, for example, and Manny Rubens' terrific hang dog face from which it comes, is a great example of the schtick that is used to entertain us.
Gregg Sulkin (great name for a guy playing this downbeat character) has the face to sink a thousand ships and a natural loser's appeal; he narrates the story with the kind of dry, self pitying tone that some comics use to gain sympathy from the crowd. Helena Bonham Carter is cast against type here as the ever-suffering Jewish wife and mother, and she plays against the effortless, jokey tone of the film to good effect.
Sixty Six is a likeable film with some dark moments to give it anchor, and while it won't set the world on fire, it has great escapist value.
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SIXTY SIX (M)
CAST: Eddie Marsan, Helena Bonham Carter, Stephen Rea, Catherine Tate(II),Peter Serafinowicz
PRODUCER: Tim Becan, Eric Fellner, Elizabeth Karlsen
DIRECTOR: Paul Weiland
SCRIPT: Peter Straughan, Bridget O'Connor
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dan Landin
EDITOR: Paul Tothill
MUSIC: Joby Talbot
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michael Howells
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 15, 2007