Published on April 16th, 2019 | by Harris Dang
Back of the Net – Film Review
Reviewed by Harris Dang on the 15th of April 2019
Umbrella Entertainment presents a film by Louise Alston
Produced by Steve Jaggi
Written by Alison Spuck McNeeley and Casie Tabanou
Starring Sofia Wylie, Tiarnie Coupland, Christopher Kirby, Trae Robin, Kate Box, Melissa Bonne, Raj Labade, Yasmin Honeychurch, Gemma Chua-Tran and Ashleigh Ross
Edited by Charlotte Cutting
Running Time: 86 minutes
Release Date: the 18th of April 2019
It may seem strange for a person like me to review a film like Back of the Net, a film catered for pre-teens. However, it will shock some of you even more to learn that I too was a pre-teen once. Growing up watching Australian television shows Round the Twist (1989) and Ship to Shore (1993) and watching films including Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986) and Lesli Linka Glatter’s Now and Then (1995) proved to be a great nostalgia fix. Their legacy still stands despite me outgrowing their target demographic.
2017 marked the release of Rhiannon Bannenberg’s Australian teen drama Rip Tide. It was an enjoyable piece of pre-teen fluff, featuring predictable trimmings of pop-music covers, montages, didactic messages, morals, and photogenic settings and actors. Surprisingly, the film was more substantial than the marketing implied. This was attributable to the passion of the largely female cast and crew, a refreshing perspective and good old-fashioned charm.
My expectations were optimistic when entering Louise Alton’s Back of the Net. The two films have the same producer (Steve Jaggi), they both have a predominantly female cast and crew, including a Disney Channel star as the lead, and they both revolve around sports. Will Back of the Net succeed as a piece of entertainment as well as a film that appeals to pre-teens?
Slyly misleading the audience into thinking that it is about a lead character who is passionate about sports, Back of the Net revolves around a passionate science-lover named Cory Bailey (Sofia Wylie). She is supposed to fly to Sydney to attend a semester aboard one of the most advanced research vessels in existence (i.e. something along the lines of Aurora Australis). However, when she arrives, she unwittingly catches the wrong bus and ends up at a Soccer Academy. Cory is not the sporty, athletic type and is bullied by the highly admired would-be rival Edie (Tiarnie Coupland). With the help of science and the few friends that she makes, she gradually begins to get out of this pickle.
Does Back of the Net kick many goals? While it may not be as dramatically sound or as well made as Rip Tide, the film has its own charms and a solid message to which many can relate. As expected with many pre-teen films, the story is predictable, the production values are measly (the under-cranking during the soccer games is laughable), the montages are plentiful as the music covers some unintentionally funny moments (involving pickles and cucumbers) and the leads and settings are photogenic to the point of being almost interplanetary.
The actors are all fun and playful across the board. Sofia Wylie is charismatic, if a bit moody, as Cory, as she manages her new chapter in life, learns a foreign concept and breaks out of her shell. Tiarnie Coupland is fun yet believable as Edie, the nemesis of Cory. She provides corner-of-her-eye villainy but is also convincing when we gradually learn what makes her character tick. The supporting cast all do fine in their parts; Trae Robin, Kate Box and Gemma Chua-Tran are standouts due to how amusing and charming they are as the love interest, authority figure and best friend, respectively.
What is refreshing about Back of the Net is its message. In films with similar stories, they usually involve inner conflicts between one’s best self and one’s honest self. In this case, Cory doesn’t forgo her science background in order to succeed in her sports endeavour, but uses it to her advantage. It shows that being the best that you can be doesn’t always involve sacrificing or diminishing who you are. It is to great credit to director Louise Alston and screenwriters Alison Spuck McNeeley and Casie Tabanou that his message is not shoved down the throats of the audience but is conveyed implicitly. Back of the Net is an entertaining, if unremarkable piece of pre-teen fluff enlivened by spirited performances, moments of likable charm and a refreshing message.
Summary: Back of the Net is an entertaining, if unremarkable piece of pre-teen fluff enlivened by spirited performances, moments of likable charm and a refreshing message.