Urban Cinefile
"..it's quite painful yet tantalising, seeing myself at age of eight, despite having my wrinkles and double chin!"  -Franco Zeffirelli on making his autobiographical film, Tea with Mussolini
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Geordie lads Gerry (Chris Beatty) and Sewell (Greg McClane) are unlikely best friends, serial truants, and soccer mad teens living in the economically depressed neighbourhood of Newcastle. They are products of a culture of perpetual unemployment, broken families, runaway drug-addicted sisters, chain-smoking mothers, drunken abusive fathers, diffident teachers, and ever-present police. Gerry and Sewellís only release is to worship their beloved Newcastle United, so in an effort to cure their blues, they agree to raise 1000 pounds for season tickets to the game. This leads to inventive, desperate, and comically criminal methods of fund raising, including run-ins with potential girlfriends, estranged family members, psychotic dog lovers, soccer superstars, and the eventual slight hand of justice.

The spritely, eager-eyed Gerry and his lumbering dim-witted pal Sewell are a kind of British version of George and Lenny from Steinbeckís Of Mice and Men. One is sharp and inventive, the other slow and strong. Together, they make a charming pair, and Beatty and McClaneís freshmen performances are wonderfully authentic. The lads live in that very part of town, and are first-time actors. This was Hermanís intent, and it gives his film the essential authenticity it deserves. Beattie, in particular, has a face continually alight with cherubic innocence and faith in the thought of soon sitting amongst his football kin within the Elysium stands of St James's Park. As the lads get up to all manner of mischief in raising the required cash, director Mark Herman (Brassed Off, Little Voice) slowly unveils the real pathos of his story. These boys were born and raised in this grotty neighbourhood, and they will probably die there too. Soccer is their religion, their faith, their hope, their bond with fellow man. Itís a place to belong as good as any, and for this you salute the lads in their endeavours, their desperate measures. The only thing offering them moral support is Antony Gormley's 'Angel of the North' statue, which the lads believe watches over them, keeping them safe. Herman lays the pathos on a little thick here, and it pushes his strangely titled film (Purely Belter is Geordie for brilliant beyond description) into the realms of tragedy. As its title suggests, Purely Belter is marketed (misleadingly) as a comedy, for although there are many light moments, Herman canít seem to help himself. As he did in Brassed off and Little Voice, he brings human misery and suffering to the fore (more so here), leaving one with less a feeling of elation and joy that contemplation and sadness. Still, thatís the sign of a multi-dimensional film, a sign that you have come to care for these characters. Herman has done a hat trick. Now letís see how he does out of his own backyard.
Shannon J. Harvey

Filled with the painful realities of life at the lower end of the socio-economic English scale (yes, yet another contemporary English kitchen sink drama), Purely Belter has a number of unusual elements Ė all welded together. At heart, itís a buddy movie, but itís also a movie about survival and dreams, about growing up Ė in the broadest sense Ė and also about the ridiculous nature of fate. There is no stirring anthem at the end, but thatís probably only because the English look down on that sort of overstatement. Itís still there if you want to imagine it. So in that sense, it ends up as a feel good movie Ė but by George it doesnít play like one. You can almost get sympathy fatigue watching Purely Belter, but thatís not meant as criticism: itís a tribute to the writing, the performances and the direction. The two central roles are character-filled in abundance by two young actors who make the film seem like a doco. The rest of the cast match up beautifully, including the disheveled and unlikable drunkard father, played by Tim Healy. Shot in rarely-seen Newcastle Ė not a cinematically gorgeous town, but perfect for this story Ė Purely Belter makes you realise how much grit you can get into a movie and still have fun.
Andrew L. Urban

Inspiring and overwhelmingly moving, Purely Belter is a delightful, uplifting film about passion and dreams. Like Fever Pitch and The Cup, the fact that the passion is about football is almost incidental. Mark Herman's story about two young boys living in working class Newcastle pierces the heart, enticing us on a slippery dip of emotions. Like Billy Elliot (one of my favourite films last year), Purely Belter is deeply affecting and involving; I can still feel the pain, the humour and the elation. If, like me, you like films to fuel your emotional palate, Purely Belter is definitely on your menu. Leaving the cinema, I wiped away my tears, took a deep breath, and walked into the sunshine (it was a daytime preview) feeling thoroughly refreshed. Herman's insightful script, beautiful realised by two young actors making their film debuts, lovingly paints the neighbourhood, the circumstances, the mindset and very real characters in adverse circumstances. It simply gets to the heart. Taking place over the four seasons, our emotions change colour, just like nature's palate. The dysfunctional families, the relationships, the courage and the integrity of the characters involve us, exemplifying the strength of the human spirit. Memorable and poignant, this is a story glowing with purity. From the wonderful moment when Gerry is asked at school to describe a special first experience to the film's satisfying resolution, Purely Belter is a rare jewel that shines simply and honestly by its heart. Dreams can come true from unexpected outcomes. As for the title? Purely Belter is Newcastle speak for fantastically brilliant. Purely Belter, the film, is precisely that.
Louise Keller

Email this article

Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0


CAST: Chris Beatty, Greg McClane, Jody Baldwin, Tim Healy

DIRECTOR: Mark Herman

PRODUCER: Elizabeth Karlsen,

SCRIPT: Mark Herman, (Jonathan Tullochís novel The Season Ticket)


EDITOR: Michael Ellis

MUSIC: Ian Broudie, Michael Gibbs


RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes



VIDEO RELEASE: January 23, 2002

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020