Goal setting works in post-war story The Keeper

David Kross as Bert Trautmann in The Keeper.
David Kross as Bert Trautmann in The Keeper.

PITCH perfect casting helps set The Keeper apart from many examples of the sports biopic genre.

It tells the story of English football club Manchester City, the 2019 Premier League champions.

Bert Trautmann (David Kross) is a German soldier awarded the Iron Cross and eventually captured by the British on the Western Front in the latter stages of World War II.

His goalkeeping prowess comes to the attention of prickly local businessman Jack Friar (John Henshaw), who runs the St Helens Town Club.

David Kross as Bert Trautmann and Freya Mavor as Margaret Friar in The Keeper.

The club is in relegation territory and lacking a decent ’keeper; Bert quickly fills the breach.

Eventually his other qualities turn the head of Friar’s daughter Margaret (Freya Mavor), despite her reservations about his status as an enemy.

It is his qualities between the goal posts that will be his passport to English acceptance, as Manchester City manager Jock Thompson (Gary Lewis) scouts him for the top-division side.

But not before a huge uproar in a city with a vocal and influential Jewish community, with obvious sensitivities about a man who served the interests of the Holocaust.

A performance in a victorious FA Cup final, with a save considered the pinnacle of bravery to this day and with dreadful consequences, defined his status in the pantheon of great players of the English game.

Likewise, German director Marcus H. Rosenmuller wins over the audience with his deft touch and clever though not cloying attention to the many opportunities for sentimentality in a tale of triumph, prejudice and persistence.

His footwork is at its most adept in the pairing of Kross and Mavor, Bert’s single-mindedness and charisma played off against feisty, spunky Margaret.

There is, thankfully, real joy derived from a subject – Germany’s part in World War II – that so often leads to despair and wonder at the propensity for inhumanity.

Trautmann, by all accounts, earned his keep in his adopted country.

The Keeper (M)

Starring: David Kross, Freya Mavor, John Henshaw, Gary Lewis

Directed by: Marcus H. Rosenmuller

Reviewed by: Martin Turner

3.5 stars

In cinemas now