Movies for Mothers and Daughters: Bend It Like Beckham

I have 2 daughters who are preteen and their father and I really enjoy watching movies with them. Their tastes have become pretty sophisticated; my youngest was 6 years old when we took her to the theatre to see “Avatar”. It still ranks as her favorite movie and she has seen it at least 3 times. When our marathon “Lord of the Rings” session concluded a year or so ago (after 6 nights of viewing), my daughters were very disappointed that the epic was over. They still like typical kids’ stuff like Disney animation and Pixar but at ages 8 and 10, I am glad that they do not balk at live action movies. With that in mind, we are currently making our way through Dr. Who on DVD as a family.

Sometimes when I am doing chores in the kitchen, I will put on a DVD movie and my daughters will wander into the room, get sucked into the story and surprise me with how much they understand. I use this technique deliberately to introduce them to stories that they may otherwise not want to explore on their own. They managed to watch the BBC’s “Pride & Prejudice”, the recent “Jane Eyre” adaptation and even the PBS American Master’s Woody Allen documentary with me via this method. So every once in awhile, I declare that it is movie night – Mom’s choice and I will pop in a movie that I hope they will enjoy. I try to choose a title that has some humour and depth. I use the themes of the movie as a springboard for discussion afterward. I have a “15 minute rule”; if they can’t stand the movie after that length of time, we will stop and then let them choose a title. Previous successful titles include “Pretty in Pink”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Blast from the Past”, “The Princess Bride”, “Uncle Buck”, “Strictly Ballroom” and “Clueless”.

Last week we watched “Bend it Like Beckham (2002)”. I remembered that my husband & I enjoyed it when it was first released on DVD, enough to buy a copy, but I hadn’t watched it in years. Neither of my girls plays soccer, but since I don’t either, I didn’t let that stop me. Ok, I did have to explain who Beckham was. It didn’t take long for us to get sucked into the story and I was surprised at how much it moved me. This is a great film!. Keira Knightly and Parminder Nagra (before their fame) are real girls that are very relatable as we watch them struggle to find their true selves beyond their parents’ expectations. The film introduces many themes including multiculturalism, homophobia, xenophobia, gender stereotypes, the complexity of familial bonds and respectfully standing up for what one believes in.

Jess (Nagra) is a Sikh girl who is recruited by Jules (Knightly) to play on an all-girl’s competitive travel soccer team. Because she knows her parents won’t approve, she sneaks out to practices and games with the help of her sister. Jess is torn. She wants to play soccer with pride and share this with her family. They want her to put away childish things and prepare herself for university in the months ahead and a future profession. When Jess is given the opportunity to play for an American college scout, things come to a head. How she resolves the conflicting expectations facing her is handled maturely and realistically. Meanwhile, Jules is having a tough time of it as well dealing with her mom’s disappointment at her “tomboy” ways. There is also a bit of romance regarding Joe, the coach, played Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

My daughters caught a glimpse of a culture that they were not familiar with. They never realized that some cultures still maintain traditional gender roles. They learned that some parents have expectations for their children that can be a source of conflict. And they learned that if you deal with conflict in a respectful manner, you often gain more than you thought possible. They also really enjoyed the story. There is some romance, some comedy and strong female role models, what more can one want.

This is a film I can recommend to anyone who enjoys a human interest story, or who enjoys strong female role models or just wants to watch a young Jonathan Rhys Meyers in a good supporting role. If you checkout the trailer above you will find that someone has uploaded the entire movie to Youtube.

I am open to suggestions for future movie nights.

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