The Home Game – Review

The Home Game Reynir FCWhen you think of footballing cities, you think of Barcelona. Madrid. Manchester. Munich. Hell, maybe even Glasgow. But Hellissandur? Perhaps the small village at the foot of a glacier on an island full of volcanoes doesn’t exactly spring to mind immediately. But, as Smari Gunn and Logi Sigursveinsson’s documentary The Home Game proves, this Icelandic fishing town could show some of the biggest clubs in the world what it means to be a team.

Back in 1994, Viðar Gylfason secured a pitch for Reynir FC. The team comprised local boys and girls, all of whom were just eager for the chance to play. He entered them into the Icelandic FA Cup, desperate for a chance to put the turf to good use. Instead, they were drawn away to Golf Club Grindavik, where they unceremoniously lost 10-0. Twenty years later, Viðar’s son, Kári (who also runs the local theatre-come-hostel) is determined to fulfil his father’s dream. Reynir will get their home game. And the score won’t reach double digits.

The Home Game is one of those classic underdog stories that so thoroughly has you rooting for those involved. From the offset, the self-deprecating humour of those involved in the Grindavik defeat draws you into this tiny village. Yes, football is a joy, but no one is aiming for the Champions League final. Not least because many of those who played in that game haven’t kicked a ball since.

Kári’s slight naivete about what it actually takes to get the home game to happen is also hilariously charming. The club doesn’t even have a logo for the draw. The pitch isn’t up to scratch, having been driven over then frozen. He doesn’t even know if their star player – Freydís Bjarnadóttir, who once donned the national kit – will be allowed to play because of her gender.

But his decision to reignite the idea of a local team puts him at the heart of the community in a way his father once was. A population of less than 400 produces a squad of 30 willing participants. There’s a little tussling about who it is the players should be listening to, but it’s all in jest. Father and son look at each other with a pride that cannot be articulated. The reintroduction of the local sport galvanises the community. The message of openness – that truly, anyone can play – is incredibly uplifting at a time when women’s sports, in particular, are fighting for their seat at the table.

In amongst all of this, there are lashings of dry Icelandic humour. We see a father and son – aged 40 and 15 – both joking about who will actually last ninety minutes. Fisherman tie up their boats then come to training. Truck drivers worry about finding XL shirts. A bleep test sees many red faces slick with sweat. The arrival of a Portuguese tourist, who happened to have spent some time training with Sporting Lisbon, has Kári wide-eyed and smiling as if Messi had donned a Reynir shirt.

Smari Gunn and Logi Sigursveinsson also take the time to showcase the striking Hellissandur scenery. Nestled at the foot of the Snaefellsjokull glacier and volcano, the multi-coloured homes dotted amongst the sweeping white plains (or verdant grass, depending on the season) are absolutely stunning. The village has also become “the street art capital of the world” thanks to, would you believe it, Kári. The rugged landscape has formed not only a small dwelling but a strong sense of community and identity that cannot be underestimated.

The Home Game Reynir FCWhen Reynir FC are finally drawn – in a home game, no less – the jubilation sweeps out into the cinema. You cannot help but share the sheer joy radiating from the community on screen. Ignoring the fact that their opponents are a mere 60 places above them in Icelandic footballing tables, you get a sense that pride alone will carry them through. After all, what do this rag-tag bunch of teenagers and local workmen really have to lose?

The match itself is something that must be watched in a cinema. Audiences were out of their seats, punching the air or clutching their heads as if they were watching one of the biggest games of the year. You will be taken in by the community spirit, made to feel like one of the locals sitting on a collapsable chair at the edge of the pitch. There will be cheers and tears both on screen and off.

The Home Game goes beyond football to evoke a spirit of collaboration and inclusion that is so often lacking from the game itself. It is uplifting, tense, funny and emotional. This is, without doubt, a beautiful film about the beautiful game.

The Home Game is up for the Audience Award at the Glasgow Film Festival.

Mary Munoz
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  1. Pingback: The Home Games nets the Audience Award at the Glasgow Film Festival 2024

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