Here you have what is ostensibly a sports movie, as tends to be the case the best one’s aren’t inherently about the sport at all. Kick It would definitely qualify and it bears mentioning since the English title would lead you to believe its your run-of-the-mill sports film as opposed to well-crafted, superbly acted, and emotionally rendered drama focused on kids. The title of the original Dutch film, and this one in its native Norwegian, give you a bit more of an indicator of what you’re in for: Cool Kids Don’t Cry.
To know more specifically what you’re in for here is the official synopsis:
Kick it! Tells the story of Anja, a spirited young girl who loves soccer, even when her classmate Jonas thinks soccer is not for girls. Anja uses her humor to deal with Jonas’ bullying, not knowing that behind his hostility hides a boy who is in love with her. When Anja is diagnosed with leukemia, she remains optimistic and full of energy. She even continues interfering with the school soccer tournament while she is in hospital. When Anja is no longer able to participate in the tournament, Jonas comes up with a really special plan.
As becomes a pattern when you see enough foreign-language youth-geared films there is far more realism and less sugar-coating with subject matter just because children are involved in the project, or the intended audience. The film does very well to balance and appropriate level of seriousness with occasional comedic relief, and other emotions as appropriate through the different subplots.
One of these subplots are the actual dueling love stories. Anja (Mia Helene Solberg Brekke) has Lars (Ulrik William Græsli) who carries a torch for her, as her love/hate with Jonas (Victor Papadopoulos Jacobsen) moves toward the latter the arcs of both relationships is deftly handled. Surely, the change in emotions the two have becomes apparent but the progression is natural, and Lars’ being overlooked as a romantic option doesn’t go the conventional anger/bitter route and they remain good friends to one another. Sure, these characters are younger, it’s puppy love, but the complication of a love interest in a film whose main focus is not romance can be a hurdle either to trip a film up or that can be surpassed. Here it is clearly surpassed, and in a natural, organic, wholly satisfactory way.
Not shying away from things and refusing to treat difficult subject matters superficially puts a huge onus on the young actors of a film and the main foursome Brekke, Græsli, Jacobsen and Sigrid Welde (Anja’s other best friend, Lisa) are wholly up to the task. There is a general sincerity about all the interactions the children have with one another whether combative, friendly, supportive, or romantic that really drives home the emotion. This truth is not only evident in the scenes where the children interact with one another but also when Anja is dealing with adults, namely her parents and doctor.
This film is heartfelt, sincere, moving and beautifully done regardless for the emotion the film is striving for. It’s not a wonder that the book upon which this story is based is so popular, and that it’s already yielded two film versions. This film will have you chuckle, and also pull at your heartstrings but in a way that’s wholly intrinsic to the film and not in due in large part to manipulation. A truly excellent film.