It’s the end of the 80s, and English society is in disrepair. A recession, disenchantment with politics and widespread poverty culminates in an embittered group of working males. As hooliganism begins to represent the feeling in widespread English culture, can the emotions of this section of society be salvaged through football and the 1990 World Cup Finals?
Adapted from a Pete Davies book, based on nine months insider access he was given to the fans, team and press at the time, One Night In Turin presents a documentary about the road leading to that Waddle penalty miss against West Germany, and attempts to use never before seen archive footage to chart the ups and downs of the Italia 90 tournament, and England as a country during this period.
Perhaps One Night In Turin’s strongest point is humour, and there’s plenty of it. Gazza is showcased in all his dim-witted hilarious glory, and we are privy to rare footage of interviews with the ever-stubborn and passionate Bobby Robson that won’t fail to amuse. There is also the Sports Minister at the time – a small, frighteningly posh man who would be more at home at the Polo club. His public comments, shown here excellently, match this feeling.
However, what is patently missing from the film is both the social/political backdrop it initially promises, and any evidence of a multi-dimensional body or story to make it truly cinema worthy. Apart form a few lazy references to Thatcher at the beginning, and documentation of hooliganism during the tournament, what we get is simply an entertaining, often very funny, documentary about the matches England played, and the press response.
One Night In Turin does intrigue with the behaviour and dynamics of the players, whether that be in interviews or in the pre-match camp. There’s so much more camaraderie, drinking and mucking around that you wouldn’t see in a modern day tournament, and it is that character and nostalgia football represents from this period the documentary captures well.
But that’s the problem. Instead of being an analysis of society and politics, and how that transmitted into the psychology of hooliganism and sat with the significance of a much loved sport, we are treated simply to a trip down nostalgia lane. Given that I was a mere 2 years old when Gazza was blubbing on a football field somewhere in Italy, I in fact probably enjoyed the film more than most. I had little clue of the outcome of the games and had not seen the great majority of the footage.
Indeed, if you’re not a football fan, there is little point going to see One Night in Turin. This is not to say it isn’t targeted at such a viewer – because it certainly is, but if it had even a bit of the background and historical analysis it suggested it would include, then a wider interest could be commanded. Instead, we have a thoroughly entertaining recounting of a football tournament that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a television screen.