There is one little tidbit I haven’t shared about us yet. We’re Jewish. Well, the Boffin is Jewish, and I’m along for the ride. We’re of the Reform variety, so that means that the Sprog is considered Jewish without the maternal bloodline. We belong to our temple. The Sprog goes to Sunday school and Hebrew school. She sings in Kavannah (the youth choir) and is planning her Bat Mitzvah even though she is only 10. And we platz like nobody’s business. Oy vey.
Why am I mentioning this? Well, it’s quite pertinent to the the movie review. Sixty Six is a comedy-drama that centers around the year 1966 and a soon-to-be 13-year-old boy, Bernie Rubens, as he approaches his Jewish coming of age. Bernie, being a lad who gets ignored a lot and is “not very good at breathing,” thinks his Bar Mitzvah is the moment that he will finally shine and take his place in the world. But fate plays against him because family hardships with the grocery business means the celebration has to be scaled back. Even worse, England is doing uncharacteristically well in the World Cup, and the final is scheduled on his big day! To put this in perspective for the Americans, 1966 World Cup final when England beat West Germany is one of the jewels in English sporting history. It was the last time they won the World Cup and is still discussed ad nauseum to this day. No one would have gone the Bat Mitzvah, if England made to the final, so Bernie spends a lot of time wishing for England’s demise.
The movie is a Working Title production. They are the same people that brought you Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually. Don’t let that detract you, if you are not a rom-com fan. The plot is based upon director, Paul Weiland’s own Bar Mitzvah being shadowed by the World Cup, so there is credibility to it. Although Sixty Six starts off slightly slowly, it picks up pace and proves to be engaging, quirky, funny, and well-acted. The stand-out performances go to Gregg Sulkin as Bernie who is really captures the angst of understanding that life is not about getting everything that you want, but at the same time wondering when it is going to be his turn. Eddie Marsan’s portrayal of Bernie’s meek, hypochondriac father was skillful in keeping him a character and creating not a caricature. You will also see solid performances from Helena Bonham-Carter, Catherine Tate, and Peter Serafinowicz.
The most interesting thing about the film is the grander theme. Look out for the tug-of-war between national identity vs. religious/personal identity. Bernie and his immediate family are trying to hold steady to their lives and plans while the nation around them is pushing forward with its own agenda in the form of the World Cup and the modern supermarket. There is much pressure to conform, even within the Jewish community. I don’t want to spoil the movie, but it’s interesting how it all plays out. I would imagine that an American movie would yield a different outcome.
So take the time to watch Sixty Six, if only to get a glimpse of a different part of England.