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Two teenagers in the north-east of England are desperate to raise money and buy season tickets for their favourite football team. They go through a series of "comic misadventures" but come up smiling in the end.
The trailer for this film sells it as a comedy and includes most of its light-hearted moments. However, the tone is increasingly grim and the end result is a depressing story peopled with familiar stereotypes. The two "heroes" have no problems with lying, cheating and stealing. Their adversaries are a callous teacher, a pantomime villain of a father, a psychotic skinhead and a well-meaning but incompetent social worker. The other female characters are a drug addicted teenager, a pregnant schoolgirl and a battered wife who seems to be smoking herself to death. There are no likable characters, and the audience can only feel either pity or contempt. Local actors Tim Healy and Kevin Whateley both play against type as baddies, but the writing and direction of their characters are so one-dimensional that they have no more than novelty value.
Chris Beattie and Greg McLane give good performances in the two young leads. However, they are miscast, because they have the wrong accent. To anyone from the north east, it is obvious that they both come from the Sunderland/Durham area, and yet we are expected to believe they are natives of Newcastle. As a Geordie myself I can assure you that the accents are by no means the same. Take the phrase "Let the poor lad speak". We say "Let the pooa lad speek" while they say "piwer lad spiyk", with two distinctly different vowel sounds. This discrepancy creates a ridiculous double irony in a scene in Sunderland football ground, where the two lads are trying to disguise the Newcastle accents they don't have, and *pretend* that they come from Sunderland - which they clearly do. In a gentle comedy this kind of criticism might be seen as nit-picking. However, the film's bleak tone makes it clear that writer/director Mark Herman is aiming for gritty realism: that means "near enough" is actually way off.
I had hoped for humour and optimism from this film, and instead found tired old clichés. Tyneside is not a grey wasteland populated solely by losers, and in telling us it is, Herman should have known he would cause offence. It's interesting to compare the film with the same director's "Little Voice" - also largely downbeat and populated by one-dimensional characters, "Little Voice" at least has a talented heroine and doesn't wallow in misery to the same extent. I've heard "Belter" ranked alongside this year's "Billy Elliot", but that film is a vastly more enjoyable and life-affirming experience.
Incidentally, I may be just too old, but having lived on Tyneside for 42 years, I have never heard anyone outside this film use the expression "Purely Belter".
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