I don’t get football hooligans. I am an avid football supporter but got into the game in the late 80’s after most of the violence had been stamped out. There seems to be a certain nostalgia growing for it in the media, I have seen three films in recent years on the subject. First came The Football Factory directed by Nick Love who has another film on the subject called The Firm coming out next year. Then came Green Street (known as Hooligans or Green Street Hooligans in America) this introduced a new element to the story basing it around an American who had no prior knowledge of football violence. Then the most recent that I saw just last night Awaydays. The film is set in an undisclosed location in the Liverpool/Wirral area in 1979 and is about a small gang of hooligans “The Pack” who follow an undisclosed team. The two main characters are Carty middle class art school dropout whose mother has recently died and who is desperate to get in with The Pack. And Elvis a member of the gang who envies Carty’s more privileged background and friends in the local music scene. He claims to not be interested in the hooligan scene any longer but still seems to get a thrill out of it.
The big problem with Awaydays is that it offers no real explanation as to why these people do what they do. As a person who can see no enjoyment in hurting people of even worse them hurting me I just don’t get it! And that is what these films should be doing they should be telling me why these characters are motivated to do what they do. If they don’t know why they do that would be equally as valid in the context of the film but to not say anything just leaves a gaping hole for me. I have read and heard things about the film saying that it is about unemployment and the early days of Thatcher’s Britton but none of those things comes across in the film. I think that there is a fear that explaining their motivation could be interpreted as an attempt to validate what they do. But by not explaining the motivation makes it seem like it is a normal everyday thing. This is demonstrated by the characters particularly Elvis who says he doesn’t want to do it any more but never says it is wrong to do it. Although the film is fictional we all know that fights like these used to happen on a regular basis so the film will be looked back upon as a representation of what happened and more importantly what we felt about them, that is why the film needs to explain the motivation of its characters. And to clarify my prospective I am not the next Mary Whitehouse who apposes violence in films. Two of my favourite films of recent years are Oldboy and Fight Club films that are both completely fictional so absolved of some of the responsibility of films based around historical events but also films that clearly demonstrate the motivation of the characters.
The film isn’t without merit it is well acted and the photography captures a grim moody location/time. The music is of the era and fits well as do the costumes. The film will no doubt help fuel the retro frenzy for “the casual look”. The coming of age storyline and the issues faced by one of the characters (I won’t give the plot away) are well played out as is the juxtaposition between the characters on their “awaydays” and in normal life. It is however presented in an aspect ratio far to narrow for cinema making it look like it belongs on TV. This is no doubt where a lot of people will see it when the DVD comes out. I would suspect a lot of the audience are below the 18 years of age required to see the film in the cinema. Don’t go any see this film expecting any answers or explanations about football hooligans or even to see anything new and you may enjoy it.