Plot: Cory (Sofia Wylie) is a bright young woman with an even brighter future, one that will soon find her on a Semester at Sea. She couldn’t be more excited about the chance to engage in more up close, hands on studies, but a twist of fate derails her plan and sends her on a new adventure. As it turns out, she finds herself at Harold Soccer Academy, where students fine tune their skills on the field, not the classroom. Although she tries to find a way to get back on track, travel options are limited and her parents are in India, so she decides to stick around. The transition starts off rough, but she soon begins to make friends and even have fun with the athletic activities, at least until she ends up on the wrong side of Edie (Tiarnie Coupland). Edie is the most popular girl at the academy and her team has most of the skilled players, but Cory isn’t going to take her bullying without rallying her new friends to challenge Edie’s team on the field.
Entertainment Value: This is a light, brisk family friendly movie with good production values and Back of the Net turns out to be solid entertainment. The narrative follows a familiar fish out of water dynamic, but it works well enough and has enough charm to overcome the predictable nature of the plot. This is mostly thanks to the young cast, most of whom are quite likable and provide good performances. I appreciated seeing a focus on smart, capable female characters and the friendships between them, rather than a romance or a mean spirited take on teen interactions. The characters are believable and given some good depth, with even the mean girl fleshed out with some background, which prevents one dimensional takes. Of course, not every character is given that kind of treatment, but the prominent ones are and to me, that helps Back of the Net stand out in the genre. I also like that the movie places value on both academic and athletic pursuits, which is a nice change of pace, as some of these movies tend to make or the other seem more important. I had fun with Back of the Net, it is a light, well made movie with humor and heart.
As I mentioned before, the cast of this movie is one reason it works so well, as the performances are energetic and no one phones it in here. Sofia Wylie has the lead role here and she delivers a terrific performance, one that refuses to remain held down by the typical “nerdy girl” persona. Instead, Wylie is able to present being smart and interested in academics as a positive, which is a welcome shift from the norm. I like that Wylie is able to use the material to make Cory likable and slightly awkward, but never a stereotype or caricature. She brings energy and enthusiasm to the part, which makes a big impact on the picture as a whole. Also of note is Tiarnie Coupland, who gives the movie a capable bad girl. I think she’s able to give off that bratty, entitled vibe when needed, to stir up conflict in the narrative, but the movie is careful to put her actions and mindset into perspective. The cast also includes Trae Robin, Kate Box, Raj Labade, and Gemma Chau-Tran.
The Disc: Umbrella Entertainment’s DVD release offers a bright, detailed widescreen presentation. The image is always clean and shows no digital concerns, while the colors are vivid and detail is sharp throughout. Not much else fans could ask from this disc, the movie looks great.