Home ContentMovie Review: Back of the Net

Movie Review: Back of the Net

Published : April 15, 2019

On Target for Sweet Tweens, With a Few Cringes on the Sidelines

Reviewed by Libby Collett

Last night I took myself and my soccer mad 12 year old son to see Back of the Net - an Australian-produced tween flick clearly aimed at 12-16 year old girls and their parents. 

It tells the story of young Cory Bailey (played with energy and sweetness in equal measure by young Disney star Sofia Wylie) who is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) poster child, all excited about a summer program spent studying the oceans (she's particularly psyched about getting her maximum 'lab time') but instead by happenstance ends up at the "Harold Soccer Academy". 

Her preppy, perky, biracial good looks and nerdiness make her a target early on, both for some low-level bullying by protagonist Edie (played by Tiarnie Coupland) - yet another gender-neutral character name - and for attention from a potential suitor.  The conflict between Cory and Edie sadly doesn't amount to as much as it should, although it promised early gold.  

At soccer camp Cory literally runs into teen hunkfest material in the form of Trae Robin as Oliver.  Do 16 year old boys actually look like this? I don't remember any boys this well built in my youth - I wonder if his appearance is sponsored by a gym or supplement company because the boy is RIPPED I tell you.  He is quite taken with young Cory but too conflicted by his loyalty to friend Edie to show it.  Plus he barely gets a look in, as Cory is constantly surrounded by her three new best friends Adelle (Yasmin Honeychurch - a stunning young indigenous actress who didn't get as much screen time as she perhaps deserved in this film), Charlotte (played with confidence and kindness by Ashleigh Ross), both of whom were totally overshadowed by the third member and alpha child of this trio, played by Gemma Chua-Tran as Janessa.  Janessa's character displays an intriguing mix of terrifyingly high levels of verve, and a Zen-like Yoda-esque philosophical quality.  She pretty much dominates the film in the scenes she is in and overplays just a little bit (read - a lot), but her smile and energy are infectious. 

During the film's 1 hour 38 minutes, Cory magically learns to play soccer and is thrust into a competitive tournament, makes three new best friends, develops independence from her already quite detached doctor parents David (played by Christopher Kirby) and Rebecca (played by Melissa Bonne). Does she triumph by winning the game, besting the bully and winning Oliver's heart?  Well that would be telling.  

My son advises that the soccer sequences were not technically accurate - from time to time he would call out "she is SO offside!" so this film may alienate the genuinely avid football fan in your family.  Despite this, it is a well-intentioned production from director Louise Alston, and writers  Alison Spuck McNeeley and Casie Tabanou.

There are times you feel like you are watching a Life Be In It health promotion advertisement, and the connection to sponsors encouraging young women in sport is not a surprise.  Given that this is an admirable... um dare I say... goal, I can let that one go through to the keeper (see what I did there? sports puns for days). 

What is lovely about this film is the diversity of the actors included, and the refreshing experience of taking my son to a film with absolutely no swearing, cussing, bullying or violence - this is a rare experience these days. 

Three cartwheels and a half backflip out of five.


Words: Libby Collett


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