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The Film to Get You Through Olympic Withdrawals

The Film to Get You Through Olympic Withdrawals

With the Olympics winding up this weekend, you'll soon need to fill the emotional void elsewhere. What better therapy than by going to see tear-jerking sports doc Undefeated (out this week). 

Since it started showing here earlier this year, the hit US TV drama Friday Night Lights has opened British viewers’ eyes to the chest-swelling, lump-in-the-throat-forming, shoulder-shuddering excitements that are woven into seemingly every game of American football (as well as to the perky delights of actress Minka Kelly in a cheerleader uniform).

This week, Undefeated, a feature-length Oscar-winning documentary, charts these emotions but swaps the Dillon Panthers for the Manassas Tigers — a real-life Memphis high school team that is poorer, blacker, sadder, funnier and rawer than anything on Friday Night Lights, and there’s barely a high kick or pom-pom in sight.

Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin’s film follows three players: athletically gifted but academically challenged man-mountain OC; dweeby but dedicated lineman Money; and short-fused, unintelligible (and frequently subtitled) hoodlum Chavis, all struggling to overcome their respective disadvantages to help the Tigers win one — just one — godforsaken play-off game.

Rallying them through it all is Bill Courtney, a kind-hearted coach who knows his way round a pep-talk and was pretty much put on this Earth to be played in a film by Philip Seymour Hoffman — which, given that executive producer Sean “Diddy” Combs has a film dramatisation in the works, could actually come to pass.

And as for blubbing, the film has at least three moments during which you’ll want to know there’s a Mansize Kleenex in the vicinity. Consider yourself warned.

Undefeated is out now