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The Beautiful Game

Content Caution



In Theaters


Home Release Date




Kennedy Unthank

Movie Review

Every year, people representing countries from across the globe gather to compete in games of soccer, seeking fame and glory. Four players per side play in 14-minute games. Each player can only ever attend the tournament once.

And every single player is homeless.

The Homeless World Cup has occurred annually since 2001, and it seeks to help homeless people find community—one which will hopefully motivate them through being a “part of something larger than themselves,” according to the event’s website.

Unfortunately for Vinny, the only thing he ever thinks about is himself.

When England’s coach, Mal, approached Vinny to see if he wanted to represent England, Vinny thought himself better than that offer. And even when he did cave and join the team, he’s convinced that he’s better than the whole event. As far as he’s concerned, the only reason his homeless teammates will make it anywhere in the tournament will be because of him.

And if Vinny’s teammates were honest with themselves, they’d agree he’s probably right. In terms of soccer, Vinny’s abilities are miles above their own.

But remember: the point of the Homeless World Cup isn’t ultimately to win. It’s meant to serve as a catalyst to help homeless people get back on their feet.

And in terms of that goal? Well, Vinny’s still a rookie.

Positive Elements

Teamwork is a key theme in The Beautiful Game—something that Vinny severely lacks. As the film begins, Vinny’s full of pride, believing that he’s carrying the entire English team on his back. To be fair, that’s somewhat true, as he’s a much better player than the rest of them. But Vinny eventually realizes that the Homeless World Cup isn’t simply about scoring goals. It is, in the words of the actual Homeless World Cup website, “a small but hugely significant step in helping an individual to feel part of a community.”

And that’s something Vinny eventually realizes he could benefit from. Because while he might have the skills to shine on the field, he isolates himself in misery the moment the game ends. We won’t spoil why that is, but it’s an issue that his teammates and coach help him work through—even when he gives them the cold shoulder, over and over.

But the reason why they continue to stand by Vinny is perhaps because they’ve all been where he is. In their own ways, they’ve all had to deal with the weight of their circumstances, from past drug use and poor decisions to things far out of their own control. And through relying on one another, they’ve put in genuine effort to push through their issues together.

According to the film, we learn that since 2001, the Homeless World Cup has transformed the lives of “more than one million homeless people.”

Spiritual Elements

The South African team is led by a nun named Protasia. Protasia prays to God that a woman would help her; when that prayer is answered, Protasia thanks God for how He helped her. Later, Protasia claims that God sent Vinny to her in order to help keep the South African team in the tournament (their standing is in jeopardy since they arrived late). “God is grateful, because God supports South Africa,” she says.

The English coach, Mal, speaks into the air to his dead wife. At another point, he visits a church, hoping that his wife might guide him in what to do.

Some priests play soccer.

Sexual Content

A man walks out of a shower, and we briefly see his naked rear as he accidentally exposes himself to others.

English player Jason is infatuated with an American female player, and his awkwardness causes him to misspeak in a very inappropriate manner, one that unintentionally references his anatomy. Later, when he is confronted for it, he says he did not mean what he said in that way, and he is genuinely upset. He also apologizes to the woman.

Men are seen shirtless. A woman’s nipples are visible through her shirt. A nun kisses Vinny in celebration. We hear another reference to male genitals.

Violent Content

We learn that English player Aldar is a refugee from Syria due to the civil war there. His town was destroyed in bombing, and we learn that he’ll likely be killed if he returns.

When someone’s photo is taken for a passport, Mal quips, “I know I said no smiling, but you look suicidal.”

The Italian team plays rough on the field.

Crude or Profane Language

The s-word is used three times. We hear “h—” twice. British vulgarities such “bloody,” “bollocks” and “tw-t” are also used. God’s name is used in vain twice. Jesus’ name is used in vain twice.

Drug and Alcohol Content

We learn that Vinny’s teammate Nathan was once addicted to heroin, and he still takes methadone and goes to rehab to treat his addiction. Other players, we hear, have struggled with alcohol addiction.

Other Negative Elements

We hear a bit of what caused Cal’s life to fall apart: He left his four-year-old son alone for 48 hours while away on a drinking spree.

Vinny is, as noted above, initially prideful and rude. He also steals a soccer ball.


The Beautiful Game showcases the vision of the Homeless World Cup: supplying homeless people with a community and a purpose that will motivate and encourage them as they struggle to get back on their feet.

And the film accomplishes that goal wonderfully. On England’s team alone, we hear from each of Vinny’s teammates regarding what event, addiction or circumstance knocked them down. But whether such things were the result of poor decisions or completely out of their control, each team member has chosen to grasp this “second chance,” not only working to fix their own circumstances but also positively influencing their teammates’ circumstances, too.

So, in many ways, The Beautiful Game is a very encouraging Netflix exclusive. But it’s still one that’s rated PG-13 for brief nudity and some language, so families will want to take those issues into consideration before they decide to strap on their shin guards and watch this film together.

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Kennedy Unthank

Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He thinks the ending of Lost “wasn’t that bad.”