Film Review: Fever Pitch – 8/10

‘So you don’t get many Micky Thomas moments in real life…’

Nick Hornby’s seminal football novel Fever Pitch is probably the first book I truly fell in love with. It’s a straight shoot out between that and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. Either way, I have read Fever Pitch cover to cover probably 50 times. As a love letter to football fandom, it still stands alone as the greatest tribute to the beautiful game ever written. While the film doesn’t quite live up to the book, it’s still an important part of my childhood and a solid adaptation…

Paul Ashworth (Colin Firth) is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in North London. He is a misanthrope. He is unambitious. But most of all he is an Arsenal fan. Paul realises it is perhaps time to rethink his priorities when he meets Sarah (Ruth Gemmell) a mature and driven fellow teacher who initially dismisses Paul as a ‘yob’. Helping him through his crisis is his best friend Steve (Mark Strong), his mother (Lorraine Ashbourne) and his sympathetic head teacher Ted (Ken Stott).

It should be noted that while Hornby also wrote the screenplay for Fever Pitch, the film diverges from the book in a number of key ways, the most obvious being that Sarah is barely a footnote in the book and yet she takes centre stage here. If you can see past this shoehorning in of a romantic relationship however, there is still plenty here to enjoy. Director David Evans does a great job in capturing the feeling of attending a football match for the first time. Hornby’s script is sharp and funny, with a number of moments that reflected my own passionate obsession with Doncaster Rovers throughout my teenage years and early twenties. Mark Strong is hilarious throughout and Colin Firth does a surprisingly convincing job in playing a lower middle class football fan.

As my wife (watching Fever Pitch for the first time) rightly pointed out, this is very much a film of the 90s. Something that is reflected not just in the soundtrack (which is admittedly excellent) but also by the clear nods to the emerging LAD culture and an outdated take on sexual politics (the character of Sarah has no defining characteristics of her own other than ‘bossy killjoy’ – something that makes Gemmell’s vivacious performance all the more impressive). But aside from those probably valid criticisms, Fever Pitch is still one of the best films about football fandom in existence, and that side of things hasn’t really dated at all.

Whilst I like to think that I’ve grown up somewhat when it comes to football, the fact that I still insisted on watching Fever Pitch the night before England take on Italy in the finals of the European Championships suggests that I’m still as hopelessly head over heels as I’ve ever been. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.