Directed by: Richard Loncraine
Cast: Paul Bettany (1), Kirsten Dunst (2), Sam Neill (3), Jon Favreau (4), James McAvoy (5), Austin Nichols (6), and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (7)
My favourite quote – “Go out there and decide who you are.”
The Sporting Dream
“We all start off in life with a dream, don’t we? For a tennis player, it’s being in the final of the Grand Slam. Center court, a high lob, a smash. Game, set and match, you’re a champion. You’re number one. But for most tennis players, that’s all it ever is, a dream. The reality is another story, my story. You see that good-looking fella? No, not the kid in white.The other, tired, good-looking fella. Yeah. Him. Well, that’s me. British Davis Cup a long time ago. Two singles titles even longer ago. Presently ranked 119th in the world. Sport is cruel. Now, I know it doesn’t sound too bad. Four million tennis players in the world, and I’m 119th. But what that really means is this 118 guys out there are faster, stronger, better and younger. And it gets you thinking.”
– Peter Colt
This year is a special year for my country. It’s Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. It’s also the first time in 22 years that the SEA Games is held in Singapore. When I was still involved with Archery in school, I was hell bent on representing my country in the SEA Games and in the Olympics. I was selected to join the National Training Team. It meant I had a shot at entering the National Team.
Then I graduated. And everything changed.
Pros Of Going Pro, Or Not
You see, unlike in China, South Korea, or even the US, having a career in sports requires a bank account that never dries up despite not earning a decent income. It doesn’t pay to be a pro athlete in Singapore. Unless you’re in one of the already successful sports and already winning medals for your country.
It’s simple really. Win a medal, we’ll give you the money. No medal, no money.
“Stop it. Stop it. Just serve. These young guys, where do they get the energy, the focus? No fear. You see, the one thing you can’t have is fear. And for the first time in my life, I’m afraid. Not of losing. I’m not even afraid of the kid. I’m afraid of what happens if that ball keeps going by me. What happens then?”
– Peter Colt
It’s the same in China, South Korea, or even the US. However, those who do focus all their energies into their chosen sport can survive on the income given to them even before they win a medal. And yes, for them it is a lot of pressure placed on them to win medals.
So there are pros and cons to our system and theirs.
Yes, I walked away from the dream of winning at Archery for my country, but I admire those who give it their all to do their country proud. Because I know how hard it is to get there.
I trained at least 3 to 4 times a week at the archery range. I didn’t have much of a social outside of the world of archery. All for what you ask? Fame? Fortune? Honour?
Well, yes. But for me, there was one time when all these factors fell away. And all I felt was peace.
I was in the zone.
In The Zone
Being in the zone is described as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
Essentially, when you are in the zone, you are completely absorbed by what you’re doing, focused, and all the training you did to get the perfect form comes naturally to you. Your breathing slows down. Your once tired arms suddenly feels light and unencumbered. Nothing distracts you from your aim; to hit the X. You step into the perfect form, raise your arms and pull to full draw in one smooth motion. And at the right moment, you instinctively feel the clicker go “click” and without hesitation or thought, you let your arrow take flight. “Swoosh,” then all you hear is a quick light “thump” and you instantly, you know. That was a good shot.
That was how it felt for me, being in the zone. Only after that shot did I realise that it had started to drizzle in the midst of that shot. I was so focused I did not feel the rain at all.
What I love about the film Wimbledon is that scene in the championship final when Paul Bettany’s Peter Colt was getting ready to serve and everything around seems to slow down and you don’t hear a thing. No sound effects when he bounces the ball on the court, nothing. I love it because it reminded me of that one moment in time when I too was in the zone.
That is what we athletes chase for. That utter feeling of peace and perfection in that moment. The tough part, is that we need to replicate that moment over and over again.
Age Is Just A Number
Dieter: What time’s your match?
Peter: 3 o’clock. Ajay Bhatt. You ever heard of him?
Dieter: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s sitting over there. Look.
Peter: Oh, my God. Shouldn’t he be off discovering masturbation or something?
Dieter: Played him at Bogota. He’s like all young men, out to destroy us, to kill the father. And like all young men, he must first be taught the lesson of humility.
Peter: Exactly. And you taught himthat lesson in Bogota?
Dieter: Sadly, no. He killed the father, straight sets. Watch out for his backhand.
Fortunately for me, Archery is a sport in which age is not a crippling factor. In other sports, like basketball, football, swimming, tennis, gymnastics, once you hit a certain age, your body cannot take much abuse anymore and you’re forced to retire.
In the film, Paul Bettany’s Peter Colt is playing his last Wimbledon as he intends to retire whether he wins or not. He just wanted to do his best and get as close to the championship final.
“So this is it. This is the end. This is what it looks like. 1000 balls a day, 300 days a year, for 25 years. Six million balls. And it all ends here, at 2 in the afternoon on Court 17 while they’re over on center court screaming for the latest Russian teenage beauty. Well, let’s see if I can at least make it last a little while.”
– Peter Colt
Mind Over Matter
Jake: By the way, how’s the weak back?
Peter: It’s fine. Thanks. How’s the weak mind?
With Archery, you can’t just be physically prepared. You have to be mentally prepared as well. In archery, you’re not competing against another person. It’s just you and the target. You biggest competition is yourself. It’s tough. With any sport.
In the film, we hear a lot of Peter’s thoughts during his matches. And I love it! Because I can totally relate to it.
Peter: Of course I want to win. I do. But he’s just better than me.
Lizzy: No. He’s not.
Peter: I’m two sets down. My back’s killing me.
Lizzy: You play through the pain.
Peter: I’m too tired. My legs are like lead.
Lizzy: Find a second win. It’s what winners do.
Peter: His serve is unstoppable.
Lizzy: No, it’s not. It’s a bundle of tells.
Lizzy: His serve. It’s like a book. You just have to know how to read it.
I interviewed a gymnast before and she has had a lot of injuries due to the sport. And I asked her how she does it. She said something similar – “You play through the pain.”
And really I do believe it is a matter of mind over matter.
So what goes through an athlete’s mind?
“One point at a time, Peter. One point at a time. It’s just another point. It’s just another point. Like hell it is. You could be the champion of Wimbledon, which means you wouldn’t have to take the pro job for starters. You could buy a new place, redecorate. Lizzie could help with that. Oh, God knows what taste she has. Oh, shut up, you silly ponce.”
I find that Wimbledon does this very well. Throughout the film, at crucial moments, we hear Peter’s thoughts through voice overs. And boy! Does it sound familiar!
“Don’t choke. Don’t choke. Don’t choke. Don’t choke. Please don’t choke. Please don’t choke. Don’t choke. I’m not gonna choke, damn it.”
When I was still shooting, it was a huge challenge to stay focused and to not think about anything else but doing a good form during a competition. I have to admit, I was easily distracted. It’s hard to quiet my mind. But when doing sports at a competitive level, that’s what you have to do. Throw away everything that doesn’t help you in your game, trust your training and just do it. Over and over again until you get to the end – a winner.
Lizzie: I’ve got a question for you.
Peter: All right.
Lizzie: Where do you come down on the whole “fooling around before a match” issue?
Peter: Well, that’s a very intriguing question.
Lizzie: ‘Cause I think a little fooling around can be really good for your game. You know, help you relax.
Peter: Um, I’m not sure I’ve done enough research to have a definitive opinion.
Lizzie: That’s very sad.
Peter: Yes, it is, isn’t it? It is very sad. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very interested in doing the necessary research. Are you?
Lizzie: I’m interested. Peter? No one can know about this, okay?
Peter: Really? I had been planning a brief press statement.
Lizzie: Seriously. Especially my dad. He’s convinced, if there’s a guy around, my first serve gets mushy.
Peter: Well, you can’t win Wimbledon with a mushy serve.
Lizzie: No. So we’ll keep it light. Okay?
Peter: Absolutely fine with me. We’ll just keep it, you know, fun and relaxed.
Another reason why I left Archery was because of a guy. So I totally relate to the situation between Peter (Paul Bettany) and Lizzie (Kirsten Dunst). It’s hard enough to keep your head straight without romantic distractions. And it’s clear with this film that both men and women can be greatly affected by a romantic entanglement.
“Trouble is, I’m the one that needs saving. Yesterday, I was losing, and then I saw you watching. Perhaps my first serve’s getting a little mushy.”
Yes, having someone who loves you spur you on can help you positively. But it can also affect you negatively as well. You can’t let your emotions get in the way. It’s tough, but not impossible.
Competition Among Friends
What about friendship? Can opponents be friends?
Lizzie: Who do you play?
Peter: Good friend of mine actually. Dieter Prohl.
Lizzie: A friend? Then you should know how to beat him. What are his weaknesses?
Peter: Um, sausages, Wagner, men in leather shorts.
Lizzie: In his game. That’s why I gave up having girlfriends in tennis. You have to dig extra deep to kill your friends.
Peter: Now I have to kill him?
Lizzie: Without thinking twice. And I don’t envy you.
Peter: Why’s that?
Lizzie: You practice together, you travel together, you practically live together. Do you really have what it takes to close out a friend in the third round of Wimbledon? Because that is killing him. It’s a bullet to the heart. That’s what’s tough about this game. There’s a winner, and there’s a loser. And tomorrow, one of you is going to be a loser.
I had a number female friends in Archery. But none I was really very very close to. I was closer with the boys. Of the 5 of us who got the chance to train with the National Training Team, I was the only girl there.
But at polytechnic level, I was close to one girl at school. During a competition, I shot better than her in the first round and she took it quite hard. She was upset with herself, and me. And she showed her displeasure.
I was pretty affected by it.
In the second round of the shoot, I was so distracted emotionally, I didn’t do well.
Peter did win the match and ended his friend’s Wimbledon run. But his friend Dieter understood and didn’t hold it against him. Now that’s what I call a good friend.
Dieter: You may have humiliated the kraut, but you’re not done with him. You change your routine not one iota. I’m still your practice partner.
Peter: Thanks, mate. Anyway, you know it was a hell of a lot closer than the score. A let-cord here or there, it would have been a different story.
Dieter: Bullshit. You annihilated me. You, you hit from the soul, the heart. Something’s happened to you. Something else, something… The girl in the taxi. The end of the waving hand. That’s where the fire comes from. Admit it.
Peter: Dieter, listen. Do you think that in the middle of a championship and for the first time in years I’m actually winning, I’d be dumb enough to get involved with a woman?
I feel that yes, on the court, or at a competition, you are “enemies.” But off the court, you’re still friends. But I agree with Lizzie, to win, you have to put the friendship aside and do your best, for yourself.
Who Are You?
Danny: It ain’t over till the handshake, lad.
Peter: Danny, I’m not really in the mood for a pep talk right now.
Danny: Well, you better get ready for one.
Peter: I thought you’d gone.
Lizzy: Yeah. Me too. Having a tough day?
Peter: Well, you know, disastrous.
Lizzy: Except for the fact that you didn’t go gooey when the ball boy got hit.
Peter: Yeah. Sorry.
Lizzy: Why are you British apologizing all the time? Don’t apologize to me. I love you. Apologize to the people who are rooting for you out there.
Peter: What did you say?
Lizzy: I said that the whole country has been waiting…
Peter: No. No. The other bit.
Lizzy: I said I love you.
Peter: See, that’s very good news. I thought I was alone in the love department.
Lizzy: Well, turns out you’ve got company.
Peter: I am so sorry.
Lizzy: If you say sorry one more time, you’re going to be sorry.
Peter: I meant about the other night.
Lizzy: Shh! Stop it. Forget about that. This is about you. Go out there and decide who you are.
Peter: And who might that be?
Lizzy: That might be a winner.
It is very tough to be a professional athlete. I think to play any sport at such a high and intense level, one must be very focused not just about winning, but about who you are.
David Beckham is known for his bending free kicks. In fact, his famous style is featured in the film Bend It Like Beckham. This move he is known for defines who he is. That is what Lizzy is trying to put across to Peter. This game is a defining moment. How he wants to be remembered depends solely on him.
Family & Inspiration
Edward: Well, uh, I’m out of the tree house. Yeah, you certainly are. Your mother and I seem to have found some common ground at long last.
Peter: Oh, really. What’s that?
Edward: You, Peter. You’re, uh, probably aware that things have been a bit sticky for the last few, well, years actually. The fact is that, uh, in the end, the only thing we shared was the downstairs toilet, and she wasn’t really keen on that. I think what I’m trying to say is that, we’d forgotten just what an inspiration you are to both of us. That’s meant to be the other way around actually, I know. But how very proud we are of you.
(Father and son hug each other)
Peter: It’s been a long time since we’ve done this.
Edward: Too bloody long.
The support of family is very important for a pro athlete. I’ve interviewed a number of Team Singapore athletes during my time as a writer in Mediacorp and all of them had great support from family and friends.
In the film Wimbledon, the theme of family doesn’t seem like the focus of the film. But it does. Lizzy has great support from her father and while they don’t appear very close for most of the film, we see more depth in their relationship when her father confronts Peter about Lizzy falling in love with him. And after she loses, he lets her stay to support Peter while he gets on the plane for home himself.
Augusta: Well, it’s been quite a fortnight, hasn’t it? Not just for Peter, but for all of us. I, for one, will admit, and that’s not a word I like very much. But we could all do better to love and support each other unconditionally. Without judgment, without… For God’s sake, Carl, stop biting your fingernails. You’re not a bloody infant!
Edward: Augusta! You were saying, darling?
Augusta: Yes, I’m sorry. I just wanted to propose a toast. To the family. Our family.
Carl: It’s a trick.
Peter: Our family.
Everyone: Our family.
Edward: Oh, bloody marvelous.
Augusta: No, darling. We’re bad luck. If we came and you lost, I would never be able to forgive myself.
Peter: I don’t believe in luck anymore. Listen, win or lose, and I can’t see how I’m possibly going to win, tomorrow will be my last professional tennis match. And I can’t imagine the three of you not being there. So, please.
Carl: So what you’re saying is Jake’s the safe bet then.
Throughout the movie, Peter’s brother Carl (James McAvoy) bets against his own brother. It might seem abominable of him to do so. And just before Peter plays the finals it still seems like he’s going to bet against his own brother. It’s only after Peter wins the final, we find out that he bet it all on his brother winning. While this seems inconsequential, I think it’s a character arc that was well set up and played out.
Peter: Nothing could possibly match that moment. It’s everything you wait a lifetime for. That dream finally come true. What else could ever come close? Except this, maybe. I did take a job at a club. But teaching young kids like my own, not old ladies.
Peter: And I love it.
Lizzy: I beat you. I beat you.
Peter: Rubbish. The ball was in. It was definite… Ow! Well, most of the time. You see, a part of me was always afraid that my life would be over if I wasn’t playing tennis. But the truth is, it was really just beginning. Oh, and by the way, Lizzie did win the U.S. Open. And Wimbledon. Twice.
I really liked that the film ended on this note. It reminds you that ultimately, your career, be it in sports or some other industry, isn’t everything. Family should be what your life is about. Not fame, not wealth, but having a family that supports you and family members you support in return.
(1) Paul Bettany has acted in films like Bent (1997), A Knight’s Tale (2001), A Beautiful Mind (2001), The Heart Of Me (2002), Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World (2003), Dogville (2003), The Da Vinci Code (2006), The Secret Life Of Bees (2008), Inkheart (2008), The Young Victoria (2009), Creation (2009), Legion (2010), The Tourist (2010), Priest (2011), Transcendence (2014), Mortdecai (2015), Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015), and Captain America: Civil War (2016). He also voiced the character of J.A.R.V.I.S. in Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), The Avengers (2012), Iron Man 3 (2013), and Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015).
(2) Kirsten Dunst has acted in films like Interview with the Vampire (1994), Little Women (1994), Jumanji (1995), The Virgin Suicides (1999), Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999), Bring It On (2000), Get Over It (2001), crazy/beautiful (2001), Spider-Man (2002), Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004), Spider-Man 2 (2004), Elizabethtown (2005), Marie Antoinette (2006), Spider-Man 3 (2007), How To Lose Friends And Alienate People (2008), All Good Things (2010), Melancholia (2011), Bachelorette (2012), On the Road (2012), Upside Down (2012), The Bling Ring (2013), The Two Faces of January (2014), and Midnight Special (2015). She has also appeared in television series like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Touched by an Angel, and ER.
(3) Sam Neill has acted in films like The Hunt For Red October (1990), Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (1992), The Piano (1993), Jurassic Park (1993), The Jungle Book (1994), Event Horizon (1997), The Horse Whisperer (1998), Bicentennial Man (1999), Jurassic Park III (2001), The Vow (2012), and Escape Plan (2013). He’s also acted in television series like Merlin, The Tudors, and Alcatraz.
(4) Jon Favreau has directed films like Elf (2003), Zathura (2005), Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), Revolution (2012), The Jungle Book (2016). He has also acted in films like Batman Forever (1995), Deep Impact (1998), Almost Famous (2000), The Replacements (2000), Elf (2003), Something’s Gotta Give (2003), Daredevil (2003), The Break-Up (2006), Iron Man (2008), Four Christmases (2008), I Love You, Man (2009), Couples Retreat (2009), Iron Man 2 (2010), Zookeeper (2011), John Carter (2012), People Like Us (2012), Identity Thief (2013), Iron Man 3 (2013), and The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013).
(5) James McAvoy has acted in films like The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005), The Last King Of Scotland (2006), Starter For 10 (2006), Penelope (2006), Becoming Jane (2007), Atonement (2007), Wanted (2008), The Conspirator (2011), X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014), The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby (2014), Victor Frankenstein (2015), and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016).. He also voiced the character of Gnomeo in the animation Gnomeo and Juliet (2011) and the character of Arthur in the animation Arthur Christmas (2011).
(6) Austin Nichols played the role of Julian Baker in the television series One Tree Hill (2008-2012) and has appeared in other series like Sliders, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Six Feet Under, CSI: Miami, Deadwood, Friday Night Lights, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and The Walking Dead. He has also acted in films like The Day After Tomorrow (2014) and LOL (2012).
(7) Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays the role of Jaime Lannister in the television series Game Of Thrones (2011-present) and has acted in films like Black Hawk Down (2001), Kingdom Of Heaven (2005), At World’s End (2009), The Other Woman (2014) and Gods of Egypt (2016).
My biggest take from this film is this – that everyone should “go out there and decide who you are.” In whatever field you want to carve a career out of, decide what kind of person you want to be remembered as and just do it. And then at the end of the day, leave all your work drama and woes behind and remember to refocus your energy on what’s really important in your life – your loved ones. (4.8 of 5)
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