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Stars: Eddie Marsan, Helena Bonham Carter, Stephen Rea, Gregg Sulkin, Peter Serafinowitz, Ben Newton

Director: Paul Weiland

Although its last five minutes may send you away with a good feeling, this is a tragi-comedy with too much tragedy and not enough comedy. It is, in fact, even if you're both a) Jewish and b) a football fan, a pretty miserable film to be with much of the time.

It's 1966 and bespectacled, asthmatic 12-year-old Bernie (Sulkin), bullied at school and ignored by his parents (Marsan, Bonham Carter), looks forward to his bar-mitzvah as a lavish and life-enhancing event.

For, if school is a nightmare, home life for Bernie isn't much better. His father is a human Eeyore who, overshadowed by his livelier brother (Serafinowitz), hides piles of fivers in the attic. Like mum, he lavishes all his attention on Bernie's feckless older brother (Newton), who can't even spell England. Hmm.

Yep, things are bad enough for Bernie as it is - without the World Cup final being on the same day as his bar-mitzvah. 'No one,' his mother reassures him, 'is going to watch a stupid football match instead of going to your bar-mitzvah.' What planet is this woman on?

Well, there's a fire, and dad's money goes up in smoke; England reach the football final; and Bernie's beloved 'breathing teacher' (Rea) finds his wife has left him. And oh, yes, it all ends happily ever after. This is clearly a film that, like its central character, desperately wants to be loved. But its ingredients make that difficult to do.

David Quinlan

UK 2006. UK Distributor: UIP (Universal). Colour.
92 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 30 Oct 2006