Watch The Trailer
Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Who would believe a story in which a former Nazi becomes the star goalkeeper for Manchester City? I mean, how likely is it that Man City fans, many of whom are Jewish, could forgive such a man?
Answer: it happened. German prisoner of war Bernhard "Bert" Trautmann joined the club in 1949 after declining repatriation to Germany. The reception was hostile from both players and fans, many of whom had recently returned from the war. Soon after he signed, 20,000 fans stood outside the club demanding his departure. And yet, Trautmann is now regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers in the club's history and a legend of English football in the 1950s and '60s. By any measure, that's an amazing story.
David Kross plays Bert Trautmann with almost heroic self-abnegation in The Keeper. John Henshaw, as grocer Jack Friar, spots Trautmann’s talent while delivering to a prisoner camp in Lancashire. Friar coaches St Helens FC. They will be relegated unless Jack can find a decent keeper. Jack's daughter Margaret (Freya Mavor) is appalled when Trautmann comes to work around the shop. Some of the customers aren't thrilled either, nor the players. Bert wins them all over, save by save, and by being the nicest German they ever met.
If the movie puts some gloss on him, it also tries to be fair. A flashback shows that he is troubled by his memories. More crudely, the writers emphasise the cruelty meted out to the German prisoners by their captors, in order to provoke our sympathies.
Believe me, if there is a more morally flexible film this year, I will be surprised. For the most part, the film embraces its contradictions. As a parable about forgiveness, it's a fine example. As a portrait of the real Trautmann, some questions remain, hanging in the air like a ball on the way to the far corner of the net.