Fifteen-year-old Jimmy Grimble (Lewis McKenzie) dreams of being a professional footballer. But despite being extremely talented with the ball, he has problems playing in front of anybody. In fact put him in front of others and he just 'bottles it'. Jimmy is convinced this is all down to his motor neurons, but whatever it is, he can't perform when others are around and he looks set to miss out on his boyhood dream.
But Jimmy's motor neurons aren't the only problem in Jimmy's life. He's a lone Man City fan in a school full of United supporters and is constantly bullied by Gorgeous Gordon Burley, the star striker of the school team and obnoxious son of rich local business man, and school benefactor (John Henshaw, who' performance is one of the films highlights). He's also fallen in love with Sara (Samia Ghadie), the new girl at school but makes a fool of himself whenever he sees her, and his Mum (Gina McKee) has split up with the likeable (and City fan) Harry (Ray Winstone), and replaced him with Harley-riding ladies' man Johnny Two Dogs played by Ben Miller.
But things change for Jimmy when he meets a homeless woman whilst being chased by Gordon and his cronies. She hides him from the gang in a derelict house she has made her home, and before he leaves, she gives him a pair of 'mysterious' boots, which were once the property of Robbie Brewer, apparently a famous City player in the past.
Of course the boots are old and tatty and Jimmy, a streetwise kid knows exactly what to do with them when he leaves the house- he throws them in a nearby skip.
But fate intervenes when Jimmy is selected as sub for the school team (due to there only being 12 players available) and his own boots are cruelly thrown away by (you guessed) Gordon Grimly. Jimmy recovers the boots from the skip, gets thrown on as sub and scores a spectacular winning goal, changing the course of his life forever.
Jimmy Grimble is a modern-day urban fairy tale. Set in the real and gritty Manchester back streets, it shows how despite everything going against him, one boy can overcome the odds and succeed. The setting of Manchester and the City's two footballing communities -big, brash, successful Man U at one end and the ever struggling and modest City at the other provides the perfect backdrop for Jimmy's against-the-odds struggle to triumph over the bullying Gordon. Not since Bill Forsyth's seminal Gregory's Girl has a film come out of Britain that spoke to both school kids and adults, for whom it fondly recalled the mixed blessing of being a teenager.
The dialogue is gritty and authentic and the performances add weight to this part fairy-tale part working-class drama. Indeed the performance of newcomer Lewis McKenzie (Jimmy) deserves particular praise and he is ably backed up by a whole host of familiar names giving good performances. The casting was good, although the always superb Robert Carlyle did look a tad young for an ex player from the late seventies, take a look at Alan Brazil and you'll know what I mean.
'There's only one….' Works hard to get across some powerful messages about the problems of school bullying and it makes some very hard hitting points. But it's the almost fantasy like elements of the story that work best. The mysterious boots and the effect they have on Jimmy's game and his fruitless search for the player to whom they once belonged are amongst the most entertaining aspects of the film.
Some of the football scenes are also very memorable, particularly Jimmy's debut against local hard cases Wreckingham whose team of thugs (in Denis The Menace' type kit) come from the bad side of the wrong side of town. The mud-soaked, violent mayhem on the pitch, the antics of the very one-sided ref and Jimmy's winning goal (all set to Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Two Tribes) will long be remembered by those who see it.
There are many things to enjoy about 'There's Only One Jimmy Grimble'. A good story ( a little unbelievable sure, but it is a fantasy after all), good acting and the excellent football sequences are all to be commended and thanks to the script by newcomer Simon Mayle and director John Hay, the film (thankfully) manages to stop itself before getting overly sentimental. The use of music throughout is superb and all the better for the inclusions of The Stone Roses' 'Waterfall' and some blinding stuff by Ian McCulloch and Echo and the Bunnymen. Even the ending, despite being a little obvious manages to have a little sting in the tale and will have (you'll know why when you see it) many fans punching the air in triumph. I really enjoyed 'There's Only One Jimmy Grimble' and would recommend you take a look. Fans of Man City will love the film and despite their depiction, United fans should (despite the films two bad guys looking remarkably like Beckham and Keane) also fall for it’s charms.