Netflix’s international library expands ever-further with The Match, an Italian football drama about the loss of innocence and the pursuit of honour.
The Match runs, fittingly, for ninety minutes, and the film’s tagline insists that an hour and a half can change everything forever. This new international feature for Netflix, written and directed by Francesco Carnesecchi, credited as Frank Jerky and making his feature debut in this lengthening and expanding of a same-titled short film, won’t change your life, but it’s about characters whose fates rest inside the chalk lines of a football pitch on the outskirts of Rome.
That pitch plays host to a football final; its outcome is a matter of some concern, especially to Coach Claudio Bulla (Francesco Pannofino), who has never won anything and finally has the chance to, and his star player Antonio (Gabriele Fiore), an amateur with dreams of turning pro whose game is off when it should be at its peak. The team, Sporting Roma, has a President, Italo (Alberto Di Stasio), whose financial stability rests on its success – The Match doesn’t skirt around Italy’s storied and well-publicised history with match-fixing and illegal betting in the beautiful game.
It also, as all good football films must, recognizes the beautiful game as a time-locked microcosm where the concerns of the wider world bleed away, leaving behind something purer and more concentrated. In that crucible, Carnesecchi spins a parable about coming of age and losing one’s innocence, and about reaching for a dream that has always hovered just outside of one’s grasp. The film’s tone is nihilistic but it still manages to romanticise football as a field of limitless possibilities on which ninety minutes can indeed determine everything.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.