Screened as part of NZIFF 2002
"Football’s uncommon ability to bring a nation together is celebrated in Chadha’s sweet positive youth movie. Jess (Nagra) loves nothing better than kicking a ball about – unless it’s her idol Becks. Unfortunately her family cling to traditional Asian values, and while they’re willing to tolerate her fanaticism, the very idea of their daughter joining a local girls’ team makes them see red. So when Jess does just that, she has to go to extreme lengths to keep it secret. It’s heartening to find Chadha exercising feminist, multi-cultural themes organically in what is essentially an unpretentious mainstream entertainment. Poppy and fun, this game underdog deserves to get a result." — Tom Charity, Time Out
"Although it touches on feminist and multicultural issues, it’s happiest being straightforward, feelgood entertainment. Jess (Parminder Nagra), a teenager from an Indian family in West London, loves football and idolises David Beckham. Encouraged by her new footballing mate Jules (Keira Knightley) and the coach (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) whom they both fancy, Jess becomes the star player in a local women’s soccer team. But her traditionally minded parents disapprove. ‘What family will want a daughter-in-law who can kick a football but can’t make round chapattis?’ asks her mother.
Can Jess repeatedly dupe her parents and continue to play? Can she make it for the all-important final on the same day as her sister’s wedding? And can she bend the ball like Beckham during a crucial free kick? The by-the-numbers direction and clichéd script don’t offer much doubt and the film’s gallery of sitcom stereotypes – Juliet Stevenson is all brassy attitude in a push-up bra as Jules’s mum – offer few surprises.
But like her previous films, Bhaji on the Beach and What’s Cooking?, Chadha brings a warmth to her characters that is hard to dislike. Nagra is a real find as Jess, a charming figure who carries the film with a mixture of vulnerability and determination. You can’t help but root for her. If you don’t go expecting East is East with football boots, you’ll have fun, while the film’s musical mix of East and West keeps the action buoyant. And unlike many a football movie, the soccer scenes aren’t bad either." — Ian Johns, The Times