There's Only One Jimmy Grimble (2000) - Synopsis
THERE'S ONLY ONE JIMMY GRIMBLE is a feel-good comedy-drama which tells the story of a bullied teenager's rocky journey out of childhood and into adulthood without ever taking its tongue out of its cheek.
Like most teenagers, Jimmy Grimble dreams of a life for himself. However, unlike most teenagers, he has some ancient footware to step into and, as a result, his dreams become reality. Well, sort of......
Produced by Jeremy Bolt, Sarah Radclyffe and Alison Jackson, the film marks the feature debut of acclaimed television director John Hay, who co-wrote the screenplay with Simon Mayle and Rik Carmichael. It combines the starpower of three of Britain's top actors - Robert Carlyle, Ray Winstone and Gina McKee - with the youthful enthusiasm of newcomer Lewis McKenzie, whose natural charm and instinctive acting skill mark him out as a formidable new talent.
Fifteen-year-old Jimmy Grimble (LEWIS McKENZIE) dreams of being a professional footballer. The only problem is that when he plays in front of anyone, his confidence disappears, his technique and co-ordination abandon him. That's not Jimmy's only problem - at school, he's victimised by Gorgeous Gordon Burley (BOBBY POWER), the school bully, he's fallen for new girl Sara (SAMIA GHADIE) but gets tongue-tied whenever he sees her; and at home, his mum Donna (GINA McKEE) has just broken up with Harry (RAY WINSTONE), a genial, good-hearted man who has inspired Jimmy to become a Manchester City fan. Needless to say, being a City fan in a school full of Manchester United supporters doesn't make life any easier.
One day, Jimmy meets a homeless woman (JANE LAPOTAIRE) who gives him a tatty old pair of football and says that when he puts them on, he will play as well as Robbie Brewer, the famous player they once belonged to. Now, Jimmy's a streetwise, 21st century kid from Manchester and he knows exactly what to do when a mad old woman gives him a pair of "mysterious" boots - throw them away.
However, fate intervenes and to his acute embarrassment he finds himself having to wear them in a school's cup match - a match in which he scores the goal of a lifetime! Soon, Jimmy can't play without the boots. He knows he's being irrational but there's just something about them..
It was the story's poignant and often hilarious evocation of adolescence that struck a chord with John Hay when producer Jeremy Bolt showed him newcomer Simon Mayle's screenplay. "When I read Simon's script, Jimmy just leapt out of the page as being so real," says Hay, "He was completely authentic. There was nothing sanitized about Simon's writing, particularly the dialogue, which was so natural, raw and funny that it seemed to capture the intensity of adolescence. I immediately thought 'That's my childhood!' I could recognise his anguish at being bullied, his timidity with Sara, his passionate devotion to a football club and his nerves on the football pitch. And I soon learnt that everyone else who read the screenplay had the same reaction."
Indeed, Robert Carlyle, arguably Britain's biggest international star now, thanks to his grandstanding performance in the latest James Bond movie, chose this low-budget film over several others because of its emotional resonance. "The film has a heart," he says. "That's what hit me when I read it and that's what John has translated onto the big screen. It's a modern-day urban fairy tale, which is set in the very real world of Manchester and deals with the very serious issue of bullying. But it's also infused with a sense of magic, which makes it immensely charming and very moving".
The story's setting, Manchester, was also an attraction for Hay and his producing partners. It was partly that the city's two footballing communities - big, brash Manchester United at one end; small, modest Manchester City at the other - perfectly mirror Jimmy's against-the-odds struggle to triumph over the bullying Gorgeous. But just as important was Manchester's unique character - this is a town bristling with vibrancy, panache and self-confidence and Hay was keen to capture those qualities on the big screen.
Hay and his producers entrusted the look of the film to director of photography John de Borman, production designer Michael Carlin and costume designer Mary Jane Reyner. This is no gritty, grimy portrait of the northern working class. Jimmy and his mother may live in an inner-city housing estate but they have great pride in how they look and where they live. That sense of style translates to the film's smoothly polished complexion with its restricted palette of the two Manchester "tribal" colours; blue and red, and boldly inventive camera movement.
Hay sums up the spirit of the film when he says: "It's a modern urban fable about how one young boy overcomes all the odds and learns to believe in himself. We took a familiar tale, an urban myth, and twisted it around to create a unique mix of the very real and the fairytale. Football is Jimmy's means of escape from the bullying he experiences at school and that's a struggle that anyone can identify with - whether you're from a Brazilian favella or northern England or the mid-West of America. I want people to be punching the air with joy at the end of the film".
Robert Carlyle, Gina McKee, Ray Winstone and Lewis McKenzie star in THERE'S ONLY ONE JIMMY GRIMBLE, directed by John Hay. Written by Simon Mayle, John Hay and Rik Carmichael, the film is produced by Sarah Radclyffe, Jeremy Bolt and Alison Jackson. Behind the scenes talent includes cinematographer John de Borman (FULL MONTY, the (1997)]), production designer Michael Carlin (WAR ZONE, the (1999), costume designer Mary Jane Reyner and editor Oral Norrie Ottey (PLUNKETT & MACLEANE (1999)). Pathe Pictures in association with The Arts Council of England and Le Studio Canal + present a Sarah Radclyffe Productions/Impact Films production. The film was shot on location in and around Manchester for seven weeks in October and November 1999. Pathe International is handling international sales.