Marcus H. Rosenmüller’s The Keeper tells the extraordinary true story of Bert Trautmann (David Kross), a former German prisoner of war who stayed in Britain after the end of World War Two and went on to become one of Manchester City football club’s most respected and loved players. Trautmann, who fought prejudice and backlash from those who objected to his signing as goalkeeper, later gained somewhat of a legendary status with supporters after famously playing in the 1956 FA cup final with a broken neck, refusing to leave his post until the final whistle of the match was blown.
When he is captured by British forces whilst fighting in Europe on the German side, Bert Trautmann, a paratrooper for the Luftwaffe, is soon transported to a PoW camp in the north of England. Here, in between the arduous chores he is expected to perform and the poor treatment he receives at the hands of the camp’s sadistic officer, Sergeant Smythe (Harry Melling), Trautmann is soon noticed by local football manager Jack Friar (played by prolific TV actor John Henshaw) for his unequalled goalkeeping prowesses.
Soon, Trautmann is offered a place on the local football team and a job at the Henshaws grocery shop where the young man is immediately drawn and eventually falls madly in love with his boss’s daughter Margaret (Freya Mavor). Things start to unravel and secrets are revealed when Bert is eventually noticed, then signed by Manchester City as their new keeper, a decision which doesn’t go down too well with the city’s Jewish community.
Director Rosenmüller (and co-writer Nicholas J. Schofield) offer a fairly accessible and decidedly contrived narrative which does exactly what is expected from it, all the while managing to retain a great degree of authenticity throughout. And while the story itself could have been told in a much more concise manner, rather than in the two hours it takes to get through the bulk storyline, there is no denying that The Keeper is hugely watchable, not least thanks to its extremely likeable cast.
David Kross (The Reader) gives a disarming and beautifully understated turn as Trautmann whom he offers as a man tortured by missed opportunities and guilt for perceived past wrongdoings. For her part, Freya Mavor (Skins, Sunshine On Leath, The ABC Murders) does a great job despite being given very little to work with by a fairly weak and decidedly pedestrian part.
The Keeper delivers far more than what is expected from it, both tonally and aesthetically. Furthermore, by highlighting the tricky subject of reconciliation in Europe, which is more timely than ever in the current political climate, the film succeeds in being informative, but never moralising. A fairly well told historical love story with added gravitas and urgency.