Breakfast with Johnny Wilkinson (R13)

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Review byMatthew Turner21/11/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Warm-hearted British comedy that exudes a passable amount of low budget charm, aided by a witty script, engaging characters and a strong comic cast.

What's it all about?
Directed by Simon Sprackling, Breakfast With Jonny Wilkinson is based on the 2006 play by Chris England and set during the 2003 Rugby World Cup final. With the match being played in Sydney, a group of British rugby fans gather to watch the televised final live in their local clubhouse. They include: promising young player Jake (George MacKay), who feels a strong psychic connection with his idol Jonny Wilkinson and believes that whenever he misses a kick, Jonny misses a kick; aging club manager Dave (Norman Pace), who's facing a leadership bid from mouthy Australian Matt (Michael Beckley); rugby obsessive Nigel (Nigel Lindsay), whose stuck-at-home wife is about to give birth; women's team captain Nina (Beth Cordingly) who's frustrated that her cup-winning victory has been ignored by the club; Observer journalist Bill (Chris England) and sexy stranger Lena (Gina Varela), a mysterious friend of Matt's.

The Good
Rising star MacKay (Sunshine On Leith, How I Live Now) delivers a winning turn as perplexed Jake, sparking appealing chemistry with Varela, despite their age difference (their steamy shower room encounter is convincingly handled) and playing his central connection to Wilkinson as if he's in the grip of something he doesn't truly understand, but is going to ride it out anyway. Similarly, Pace is surprisingly moving as Dave and there's strong comic support from Lindsay and Beckley, though both men occasionally tip too far into caricature.

England's script is packed with witty lines and manages to pull off a couple of decent surprises, even if not all of them are entirely convincing; it also, remarkably, manages to generate a modicum of suspense, despite the fact that the outcome of the game is well known. In addition, director Sprackling makes a virtue of the film's single location (the action only ever moves outside when Jake is about to take a kick) and ensures that it never feels overly stagey.

The Bad
The only real problem with the film is that a few of the details feel unnecessary (an undisclosed former affair between two of the characters adds nothing to the story, for example), while Matt's various schemes to influence the upcoming club leadership vote seem ridiculously contrived, even for farcical purposes.

Worth seeing?
A handful of unconvincing character moments aside, Breakfast with Johnny Wilkinson is a likeable and frequently charming British comedy with a witty script and a winning comic cast. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 07/12/2019 23:13

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