Available on DVD now. Cert: PG. Running time: 102 mins. Dir: Ellen Perry. Cast: Perry Eggleton, Bob Hoskins, Damian Lewis.
Set in the 2005 Champions League season, Will is the part-comedic, part-tragic story of a young football fan's fight to see Liverpool claim European glory.
Though it is the creation of Ellen Perry, an LA-based director with a background in documentary, it is mawkish in the extreme from the very outset. The central character, 11-year-old Liverpool obsessive Will (Perry Eggleton), is left in a Catholic orphanage following the death of his mother, but his father (Damian Lewis) returns with ambitions of making amends. The two establish an instant rapport based on a shared love of all things Liverpool, bonding over a tale of Kenny Dalglish's glory days and soon joining together in a chorus of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' at a pub owned by Davey (Bob Hoskins). His father offers the ultimate redemptive gift: two tickets for the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul.
The reunion is barely underway, though, before poor Will is left orphaned a second time as his dad suffers a brain haemorrhage - all this within the opening minutes of the film. It is sledgehammer pathos, exacerbated by scenes of overcooked sentiment included in a vain attempt to provide the central plot with emotional resonance.
Will, who had accurately predicted that Luis Suarez was going to score the winner in the semi-final with Chelsea, is then left with the herculean task of making his way to Istanbul alone to honour his father's memory, since Davey is unable to accompany him (which prompts questions as to why exactly they bothered to get Bob Hoskins involved in the first place). Will, then, must show the character embodied in his name.
Presumably aware that the first 20 minutes had overegged the pathos, Will suddenly morphs into a comedy film as the children at the orphanage - led by the streetwise Chelsea fan Ritchie (Brandon Robinson) - come to together to plan a route to Turkey.
Will sets out on his journey alone, and the plot that follows is for the most part competent and mildly engaging but, even then, a complete absence of subtlety sees the film descend into farce: as Will establishes a friendship with former Bosnian footballer Alek (Kristian Kiehling), it emerges that his story, too, has been blighted by an incredibly unfortunate sadness. Such heavy-handed attempts to add character depth do nothing to assist the inevitable feelgood ending.
In its defence, fictional football films have rarely managed to achieve even mediocrity and, in the case of Will, it is important not to lose sight of the fact it seems to have been made with a clear target audience in mind. As a family film, the plot is likely to be compelling enough to entertain young football fans, particularly junior Reds, and the appearances from Kenny Dalglish, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher will likely have their appeal. For most, though, Will will be seen as a risible film that suffers badly in the absence of subtlety.