I came upon this old BBC TV movie by chance on Amazon Prime. By the description, it didn’t seem like a soccer movie, but it turns out that the first 30 minutes deliver trope after trope of non-league football from the touchline in 1990s Bristol, England.
In the first act, Nick (Robert Carlyle) is a working stiff who plays on a team with his best mates. He wins the heart of the beautiful Karen (Juliet Aubrey), the sex is great, and she moves in to his flat.
In the second part of the film, Nick begins to decline. Those missed sitters and increasing symptoms (double vision and numbness) turn out to be multiple sclerosis. Karen has to decide for herself if she can be strong for Nick or, as in the titular song, should she go now.
In the heartbreaking third act, the young couple and Nick’s friends and family come to grips with his deterioration and how to interact with and support him. Nothing is easy.
There isn’t really any football action in the film — it is all portrayed through photographs, the locker room and showers, and the manager yelling comical obscenities from the touchline. (I had to lookup the meanings of all of this slang!)
How did you miss it, you blind git? Stevie Wonder could have put it in!
Oh for god’s sake Tony, you big girls bloody blouse!
He’s not gonna bite ya! Get stuck into him for Christ’s sake!
Hey Nick, Nick you can pass the thing now and again! Give us a bit of effort, will ya! Look interested!
For Christ’s sake Nick, get out! Out, out, you bloody bleeder! You’re playing them all on, you stupid git!
Ah Nick! Nick, you’re f**king crap! You’re f**ing useless! Absolutely f**king useless!
Ah for God’s sake, Nick! You couldn’t score in a bloody brothel! I could have put that in, couldn’t I? Me grandmother could have put that in, you stupid bloody bollock!Team manager Sammy (Berwick Kaler)
A comedy? A drama? A romance?
Go Now is listed as a comedy-drama-romance. The comedy is largely in the first act and is either based on the football or the incredibly sexist/horny banter by Nick’s best friend Tony (James Nesbitt ), who aggressively comes on to every woman he meets. For a 1995 film, I was surprised by the rather explicit sex scenes between Nick and Karen and the many bare male butts, including Tony bending over to give the ref a full “bit of cheek”. I don’t think Hollywood films got to that level of frankness for at least another 5 years.
The drama of course is how Nick and Karen deal with multiple sclerosis: the rage, the guilt, and the grief. Some reviews downplayed this film as “disease-of-the-week”, which was apparently a BBC trend at the time. But Robert Carlyle’s performance is heart-rending and you feel Nick’s body slipping out of the grasp of his mind. Juliet Aubrey is also excellent, but with a beauty that reminds of Diana Rigg, it is not made clear why her character Karen sticks around.
It turns out that the film started with aspiring writer Paul Powell, who suffered from MS himself. Powell approached the successful screenwriter Jimmy McGovern with a script. McGovern reworked it, and I suspect he added all the football parts, as he was a Liverpudlian and wrote a 1996 BBC version of the Hillsborough disaster.
There aren’t that many dramas about multiple sclerosis, and this one might be particularly honest. Danny Wallace, a footballer who played for ManU, developed MS at age 31 at around the time of this film. He attested to the film’s accurate portrayal of how tough it is to lose the ability to do the things you love.
Two years after this film, Robert Carlyle’s performance helped make The Full Monty a big success.
7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7