One thing that makes for potent drama or comedy is the clash of cultures, how one group of people reacts to ways different from their own. At the surface, that’s what the British dramedy Bend It Like Beckham appears to be.
Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) is a young British girl who wants nothing more to pursue her dream of playing soccer, like her idol footballer Dave Beckham. Her traditional Indian parents, however, feel that she should be spending her time making herself a good potential wife for a nice young Indian boy like her older sister has. They are particularly upset when Jules (Keira Knightley) recruits Jess to play on a local girl’s team. Forbidden from playing, Jess sneaks out to matches behind her parent’s backs. However as the team begins to gain attention for their winning streak, it becomes harder for her to keep her secret.
While the film seems to be about the clash of British and Indian culture, it’s more about the traditional clash between generations. When you scratch the surface, both Jess and Jules’ parents are quite similar. Both mothers don’t understand their daughters’ fascination with soccer and seem to be more concerned with what others will think. Both fathers just want their girls to be happy.
Director (and co-screenwriter) Guirinder Chadha has assembled an outstanding cast of young actors. Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley share an easy chemistry on screen. This chemistry helps to elevate the one section of the film that feels a little too “Hollywood”- when Jess and Jules’s friendship is tested by their mutual attraction to their team’s soccer coach (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).