Next Goal Wins is the 21st century’s version of the Cool Runnings movie. American Samoa was ranked the worst team in the world after losing 31-o to Australia in the World Cup qualifiers. As we all know, once you hit rock bottom the only way is up.
What elevates Next Goal Wins is that Taika Waititi focuses on solid storytelling. In so doing, he provides a powerful narrative that doesn’t feel melodramatic or preachy. This is especially true in how he deals with the trans captain of the football team and how that’s weaved, and shown through the eyes of Samoan culture and their acceptance of trans people as being an integral part of their society.
Next Goal Wins is a testament to good writing as well as representation and diversity. The Samoans aren’t objectified or ridiculed. They laugh with us. That, I suspect, is because of the gaze behind the camera.
Yes, this movie is full of self deprecating humour and silliness but it still delivers. Michael Fassbender is on form as the unwilling American coach of the team. Next Goal Wins isn’t really about the football but more a reflection on community, culture, and forgiveness.
Next Goal Wins is released on Boxing Day, 26 December, across cinemas in UK and Ireland.