›› Balls - Männer Wie Wir / Men Like Us - aka Guys & Balls ‹‹

a film by Sherry Hormann.

2004 | 102 mins | Germany.

a comical look at homophobia in the so-called beautiful game.

Dave says:

Like the Icelandic feature Eleven Men Out, here director Sherry Hormann has gone out of her way to highlight the ingrained prejudice that exists to this day in the so-called beautiful game, yet refreshingly does so by preaching the bitter home truths; comical fashion.

For this is the story of Ecki (Maximilian Brückner); a talented footballer who in having made a drunken pass at another player, finds himself rejected by his teammates who blame him for their failure to secure league promotion. Heading off to Dortmund to escape both a father unable to come to terms with a gay football loving son and a mother whose open arms of sexual acceptance appear to be the sole ones found in a town seemingly steeped in intolerance, the welcoming smile from his sister Susanne (Lisa Maria Potthoff) is soon to turn to shock, when she learns that Ecki has challenged his former team to a 'straights v gays' match in four weeks time. After all; anything the straights can do, the gays can do better right?

Only if finding a group of openly gay football players proved to be difficult, then Ecki is soon to discover that turning them into a winning formation is more than an uphill struggle. Thankfully on hand to help Ecki out is Coach Karl (Rolf Zacher); a disillusioned former professional player of the '65 / '66 season, whose initial reluctance to let a bunch of gay boys play on his beloved turf is soon replaced by a renewed interest in the game, inspired by their willingness to train and in particular by the proficiency of a pair of Brazilian players who do their country proud. Then again, so too does male nurse Sven (David Rott); namely a man who has set his sights on Ecki, that is if Ecki has pride enough to return his affection in public and on match day when he has the perfect opportunity to show his former teammates that gays can score both on and off the pitch.

In a film that's heavily reliant on stereotypes for comedy and here cue limp wrists, leather, chains, not to mention the odd butch lesbian and frankly every aspect of human sexuality on the Kinsey scale, what could have turned out to be a narrative minefield is saved thanks to a spirited cast who inject their characters with a genuine warmth and charm, along the way making this cliché-laden work - work. For there's a real sense of camaraderie in this diverse 'to thy ownself, being true' bunch of football playing lads, with Brückner's straight edge portrayal of Ecki nicely countered by Rott's beckoning eye movements, together with the opposing image of three leather clad bikers who are tough on the outside, but ever so tender on the inside. And whilst works of this nature, intercut as they are with homophobic remarks to reflect the bigoted mindset of some, always seem to preach to the converted, the result nonetheless makes for a vibrant variant of the triumphant underdog scenario, let alone a film in which the father and son relationship is given specific prominence and in more ways, than one. Wonderfully entertaining, telling and a pure delight. Need more be said?

›› available as part of the Peccadillo Pictures catalogue: 6th November, 2006 / UK.
›› revised: Thursday, 9th September, 2021.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - bare-arsed cheek. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 

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