There's Only One Jimmy Grimble

UK/France 2000

Reviewed by Jim White


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Manchester, the present. A pupil at Greenock High School, Jimmy Grimble is the substitute on the school's football team, whose star player Gordon 'Gorgeous' Burley bullies him. Burley's father Ken promises that he will pay for the school's sports hall if the team, coached by disillusioned PE teacher Eric Wirral, makes it to the final of the Manchester Schools' Cup. On his way home, Jimmy is chased by Gordon and hides in a derelict house. There, an old woman gives him a pair of football boots. Jimmy later throws them into a skip.

On the day of the first Schools' Cup match, Gordon chucks Jimmy's usual boots into a passing refuse truck. Jimmy retrieves the gift boots from the skip. Playing against Wreckingham, Gordon is injured; sent on in the last minutes, Jimmy scores the winning goal. Believing his boots to be magic, Jimmy plays a key role in his school team's reaching the cup final. He strikes up a friendship with new girl Sara, boosts former Manchester City player Eric's confidence and attracts the attention of a Manchester United football scout. On the day of the cup final (played at City's grounds), Jimmy discovers the old lady dead. Gordon dumps Jimmy's 'magic' boots into a nearby canal, causing Jimmy to lose confidence on the pitch. At half-time, Harry, the ex-lover of Jimmy's mum Donna, convinces Jimmy that his boots weren't magical. Playing better in the second half, Jimmy sets up the winning goal. Having split with her thieving fiancé Two Dogs, Donna gets back together with Harry; Jimmy accepts a place on City's youth programme.


"It's not working, is it?" says Ray Winstone towards the end of There's Only One Jimmy Grimble, his Manchester accent as authentic as a seven-pound note. As a critical summary of the film, his observation cannot be bettered. Jimmy Grimble is a film about football, but the central fault that dogs all football movies - actors don't have footballers' legs and footballers can't act - is not the issue here. The actual match sequences are the freshest aspects of the film. Eschewing realism, director John Hay (The Steal) allows the progression of Jimmy Grimble (a fine performance by Lewis McKenzie) from useless spod to schoolboy champion to be mapped in a series of imaginatively shot set pieces. Whether it's Jimmy on his own as 20 yobs charge towards him in menacing slow motion, or Jimmy waltzing through a forest of chopping legs shot from a camera spinning lace high above the turf, it works.

The problem is with the rest of the film, those minor incidentals such as character, plot and dialogue. The reason movies about sport rarely match the real thing is that sport, this side of a Mike Tyson fight, is utterly unpredictable. When making movies about sport, film directors, however, tend to resort to well-worn plots which rarely leave you guessing over the outcome of their competing heroes. In Jimmy Grimble, for instance, we are never left in doubt as to the result of the matches on the pitch and off it: as Jimmy's team marches on to the Manchester Schools' Cup, we just know boy will get girl, mum will get boyfriend and bully will get come-uppance. Plus, in the inevitable afterglow of last-minute triumph, cynical coach will rediscover joy, jaded headmaster will find his long buried pride and Nike will get full value from their product-placement contract.

The obviousness of the plot might not be so bad had the humour been a little more lively. But the dialogue is as laboured and one-dimensional as the characterisation; the observations on life trite and leaden: "If the magic's not in my boots," concludes Jimmy at the end with all apparent seriousness, "it must be in my feet." Moreover, sparse and intermittent as they are, the jokes arrive with all the subtlety and unexpectedness of a riot involving England supporters. As soon as Two Dogs, Jimmy's mum's admirer and incompetent would-be martial-arts fiend, starts playing with his kung fu chain in front of the mirror, for instance, you just know he's going to lose control and spatchcock his nipples.

No wonder the big names attracted to the film, presumably in the belief it might prove the new Gregory's Girl, do their best to disappear. Ray Winstone and Robert Carlyle give performances so understated it is almost as if they're trying to disassociate themselves from the enterprise as they go along. At least Carlyle, as Jimmy's disillusioned coach, sounds like a local as the camera follows him through the vivid urban landscape of Manchester. Winstone, as the ex-boyfriend Jimmy wants his mum to get back together with, appears to think a Mancunian accent can be achieved by grumbling into his chest, his voice so deep in Lee Marvin territory, he must have needed an aqualung to get down there. It is not working indeed.


John Hay
Sarah Radclyffe
Jeremy Bolt
Alison Jackson
Simon Mayle
John Hay
Rik Carmichael
Simon Mayle
Director of Photography
John de Borman
Oral Norrie Ottey
Production Designer
Michael Carlin
Simon Boswell
Alex James
©Pathé Fund Limited
Production Companies
Pathé Pictures presents
in association with the Arts Council of England
and le Studio Canal+
a Sarah Radclyffe/Impact Films production
supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of England
Executive Producers
Alexis Lloyd
Andrea Calderwood
Bill Godfrey
Line Producer
Claire Hunt
Production Executive
Natasha Ross
Production Co-ordinator
Winnie Wishart
Unit Manager
David Myatt
Location Manager
Sam Taylor
Assistant Directors
Stephen Woolfenden
Beni Turkson
Matt Carver
Toby Ford
Ben Dixon
Script Supervisor
Heather Storr
Suzanne M. Smith
ADR Voice:
Louis Elman
Additional Photography
Peter Sinclair
Camera Operators
Alistair Rae
Lawrence Bewsher
Alistair Rae
Stuart Howell
Digital Effects
Cinesite (Europe) Limited
Special Effects
Emergency House Effects
Snow Effects
Snow Business
Art Director
Karen Wakefield
Set Decorator
Liz Griffiths
Storyboard Artist
Douglas Ingram
Costume Designer
Mary-Jane Reyner
Costume Supervisor
Nicole Young
Kathy Ducker
Samantha Print
Barbara Taylor
Title Design
General Screen Enterprises
Music Supervisors
Abi Leland
Dan Rose
Music Editor
Tom Sayers
Reel Sound
Music Recording/
Mix Engineer
Geoff Foster
"The Only One I Know" - The Charlatans; "Feel the Panic" - Freestylers, contains a sample of "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" - Public Enemy; "Blue Moon", "Do You Believe?"- Ian McCulloch, Simon Boswell, Alex James; "City Boy" - Orbital; "Two Tribes" - Frankie Goes to Hollywood; "Kinky Afro" - Happy Mondays; "Waterfall" - Stone Roses; "Stronger" - Contempo; "Unbelievable" - EMF; "Venus" - Bananarama; "Nothing Lasts Forever" - Echo and the Bunnymen; "Right Here Right Now" - Fatboy Slim; "Let Forever Be" - The Chemical Brothers
Sound Mixer
George Richards
Dubbing Mixer
Tim Alban
Supervising Sound Editor
Jeremy Price
Dialogue Editors
Julian Dodwell
Hilary Wyatt
Atmosphere Effects Editor
Terry Brown
Paul Harris
Dave McGrath
Julian Dodwell
Felicity Cottrell
Jack Stew
Barnaby Smyth
Barnaby Smyth
Stunt Co-ordinator
Lee Sheward
Football/Action Choreography
Paul Filipiak
Football Choreography/ Coach
Simon Clifford
Robert Carlyle
Eric Wirral
Ray Winstone
Gina McKee
Lewis McKenzie
Jimmy Grimble
Jane Lapotaire
Alice Brewer
Ben Miller
Two Dogs
Wayne Galtrey
Walkway Kid
Ciaran Griffiths
Bobby Power
Samia Ghadie
Anthony Marsh
Sean Delaney
Charles Denton
The Cat
Azmier Ahmed
John McArdle
Ann Aris
Richard Heap
John Henshaw
Ken Burley
Michael J. Jackson
Jim Whelan
Robbie Brewer
Jacqueline Leonard
Samantha Cunningham
Melanie Morrison
Chris Carson
Lee Price
Abdi Ismail
Andy Hampson
Gareth Gibson
Greenock team
Andrew Schofield
Wreckingham referee
Barry Edwards
Wreckingham goalie
Carl Chase
thug in pub
Steve Garti
security guard
Sean McGowan
Northmoor referee
Dave Hill
United scout
Julie Brown
underwear party guest
Trevor Dwyer Lynch
Hard Hat
Liam Fox
sales assistant
Alan Keegan
Schools' Cup commentator
Spurley Hey High School
Irlam & Cadishead Community High School
Cheadle Hulme School
King George V Sixth Form College
Wright Robinson Sports College
Garforth Community College
Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School
Corpus Christi High School
Allerton Grange High School
opposing teams
Warren Dennis
Michael McWilliams
Gareth Cavanagh
Daniel Harrison
Pathé Distribution
tbc feet
tbc minutes
Dolby Digital
Colour/Prints by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011