As documentaries go "Glory For Everyone" isn't really anything too special. This is the story of a youth soccer team who gives it their all in impossible circumstances for the sake of a dream. What makes the work compelling here isn't the story even, but more accurately the lack of a real narrative. Multiple problems are identified in the home lives of the kids as time goes on- parental issues, money problems, a tatterred photo album goes a long way to demonstrating these little guys don't even have much in the way of memories.
None of these issues are solved by the end of the documentary. They're all still poor, and only have the dream of one day becoming a professional soccer player to really look forward to. And goodness knows these elementary school students are serious about chasing that dream. The training sequences are brutal. The coach is tough and mean, demanding everything these kids can give.
The subtext is an interesting one- so many of the players on the team are dealing with a very stressed family life, and it's clear that because of how young they are, these kids can't really do anything about it. Contrast that to soccer. Granted, there's no guarantee that they'll win every game no matter how hard they train. But it's at least something they can actually work toward accomplishing, with a coach who actually pushes them to give it their all instead of just telling them to stay out of the way.
There's a very human immediacy to this that goes a long way to creating genuine tension by the later points of the film, where the team gets embroiled in high stakes soccer games without even much of a sideline to cheer them on. It's at moments like this where you feel like you have to root for the scrappy little underdogs to win on general principle. No one else will.
In terms of the documentary form there's plenty "Glory For Everyone" gets right. The camera mostly focuses on the kids who are constantly embroiled in strategy sessions- a wise decision on the part of Im Yoo-cheol, because there's clear innocence in the way these children honestly discuss their lives in a fairly blase manner. They're not martyrs, and they're not heroes struggling against the system. They're just kids who want to become soccer stars. Probably my favorite bit of childlike reasoning is when it has to be explained that no, it's perfectly fine for them to horse around and have fun. You don't need to be a training robot to be good at soccer.
Still, however strong the production values are, and however effective the realism of the format is at showing off real kids with long term problems as opposed to movie kids ith magical solutions, "Glory For Everyone" is a fairly typical underdog story. It's mostly valuable just as a reminder that there's these little guys out there who fight for their dream against all obstacles without really worrying too much about the vagaries of life. And really, I think we all have days where that kind of story is what we need to see.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Glory For Everyone""
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