Marvellous - DVD Review

'the story of an everyman, one of us, who simply refused to accept that the barriers to what he wanted to do were in place at all, let alone, sometimes, right in front of him'

The cheeky chutzpah of Marvellous to give itself a title it hopes can describe what it has to offer is un-noteworthy primarily because it fulfils its desired marvellous place in life almost immediately. How can a film that opens almost immediately with a shot of a sad Toby Jones dressed as a happy clown be described in anything but such superlatives?

That the said clown - Neil Baldwin - goes on throughout the course of the film to occupy a prime place in the Stoke City FC dressing room is significant for many reasons over and above the fact that clowns have been regularly welcome in Stoke City's dressing room down the years (come in Kris Kamara). Baldwin's (Jones) story is regularly inspiring, almost always jocular, on one occasion; tear inducing. It is the story of an everyman, one of us, who simply refused to accept that the barriers to what he wanted to do were in place at all, let alone, sometimes, right in front of him. 'I'd like to be manager of Stoke City or a priest', he tells a job centre employee before adding the caveat, 'actually, I'd manage pretty much anyone, but I draw the line at Port Vale'.

That joke will likely only tickle the fancy of Stokies and therefore an admission: not only am I from around the area of Marvellous' filming, but you can practically see my late Nan's house from one shot and Newcastle Christadelphian Hall, where several scenes are filmed, was my parent's church when I was younger. Both remember Baldwin's mother, played here wonderfully by Gemma Jones. Elsewhere, my club's ground - Crewe Alexandra's Alexandra Stadium - stands in for Stoke's old Victoria Ground, where my Dad used to stand.

Family ties duly disclosed, it is therefore only fair to point out two things about Marvellous: clearly it is likely appeal more to people from or around Stoke and secondly it is, despite efforts to the contrary, clearly a TV movie. Scenes during a football game, where Baldwin comes on as a substitute, look extremely cheaply shot and there's rarely a vista for director Julian Farino to make sweeping.

But, whilst trying to avoid sounding like an apologist, Marvellous has so much charm, so much pluck and so much stylistic invention that it is surely hard not to fall for it, even if you try to avoid the Stoke connection, which clearly I cannot. Farino punctuates the film with full screen intertitles that describe where Baldwin's near-incessant optimism gets him: 'Neil Baldwin's guide to gatecrashing University' and 'Neil Baldwin's guide to gatecrashing the boat race' both feature. Then, there's Neil Baldwin himself, who shows up in conversation with Toby Jones as his on screen persona. 'Did you really do all those things?', Jones asks Baldwin, in character, 'yes', Baldwin replies simply, still bubbling with enthusiasm. The evidence of said enthusiasm is on screen for all to see and it is, unsurprisingly, marvellous.

Marvellous is released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 1st December 2014.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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