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Movie Review: Bill Nighy, Michael Ward shine in Netflix’s Homeless World Cup crowd-pleaser

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The Beautiful Game,” a new movie starring Bill Nighy and Michael Ward, is about a real international soccer tournament called the Homeless World Cup.

Don’t go in expecting documentary realness or grit, however. This is a movie-movie (debuting on Netflix on Friday, tidily constructed to leave audiences feeling inspired and uplifted. Mind you, this isn’t a bad thing – verité authenticity has its place but so do well constructed, glossy fantasies that still evoke authentic emotion and get at some essential truths. “ ,” directed by Thea Sharrock, is firmly the latter. Just managing expectations.

The first Homeless World Cup was held in 2003, and in the past two decades, nearly 70 countries and 1.2 million people have participated. And yet, I suspect, its existence might come as a surprise to many (even soccer fans …excuse me, football). The foundation’s goals are noble, raising awareness for homelessness in major world cities and giving players a sense of pride and community.

Colin Farrell, who narrated the 2008 documentary about the games (“Kicking It,” ) and has since become an ambassador for the foundation, is one of the main producers on the film. Screenwriter Frank Cotrell-Boyce also worked with the foundation and past participants to inspire the characters he’d end up writing. It may be a movie, but it has legitimacy in its bones.