Offside (2019) – Guest Review

The story of a female football team as they prepare for competition season told in a straightforward manner – without turgid narratives about femininity or victory.

Dir. Miguel Gaudencio 
2019 | Poland | Documentary/Sports | 101 mins | 2.35:1 | Polish
Not rated (likely to be PG)

Plot: This documentary captures the commitment, passion and comradery of a female Polish football team during their gruelling, but critical pre-season training as their coach sets the foundation for the new season ahead by pushing them to new limits.
Source: Greenbox Europe

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Light/Inspirational
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse


To watch the film:

(Reviewed by James Teo)

Spoilers: N.A.

Offside follows the pre-season of Polish football team Olimpia Szczecin, both on and off the field. Miguel Gaudêncio’s documentary offers a stark contrast from your usual sports film—it does not focus on any star player, nor does it conclude with the team attaining victory, fame, or fortune.

Cuts of the athletes’ lives off the field are interspersed throughout the film, showing them in their little corners of society. Their varied backgrounds notwithstanding, the women become purely players the moment they step onto the pitch.

“This team, it’s made up of all kinds of players. Differences in age, character, and in the way they approach training.”

The subject matter of Offside is fundamentally different. The film does not focus on the major leagues, nor does it promulgate football as a communal activity that is enjoyed by the neighbourhood children. It goes without saying that anyone can relish in the adrenaline rush, but to engage in sport on a competitive level requires a unique grit.

This pertains not only to the field, but off it as well. As they do not play football for a living, their commitment to the sport is all the more deserving of respect. Quitting at any point would not mean the loss of their livelihood, yet they stand by their decision to keep struggling in various aspects – maintaining their weight, balancing training with their daily lives, and upholding discipline to improve themselves through training.

Filming the documentary in monochrome accentuated the choice of subject matter and the tone chosen to portray it. The selection of scenes does not delve too deeply into their personal stories, but instead illustrates that what makes the players stand out is the devotion they put into their practice and the fervour with which they play.

“As long as there is a problem, the game will always be carelessly played.”

Though it might come across as drab or dull to most viewers, Gaudêncio’s decision preserves the storytelling as authentic to the nature of competitive sports. It is often boring, it will make you want to quit halfway, and there may never be a glorious conclusion. The only thing that keeps the players hopelessly attracted is the desire to improve, exceed the self, and keep playing.

Despite Offside being a film that documents the trials and tribulations of the female football team Olimpia Szczecin, it does not endeavour to paint a heart-wrenching story of women overcoming bias or stigma. The movie simply tells it as it is – football as a sport in its rawest form, an equal platform for everyone.

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