Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Final Set Review: A French Tennis Drama With An Emphasis On The Drama

Release date: August 27, 2021
Running time: 115 minutes
Written and Directed by: Quentin Reynaud
Cast: Alex Lutz, Ana Girardot, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jurgen Briand, Tariq Bettahar, Quentin Reynaud, Damien Gouy, Victor Ouvrard, Yanais Laurent, Leny Mitjana

Once described as a young professional tennis prodigy, Thomas (Cesar-winner Alex Lutz) never had the career in the game he had hoped for. At 37, he decides to return to the French Open at Roland-Garros, in spite of his declining physical fitness and shattered knee. Although his wife Eve (Ana Girardot) and mother Judith (Oscar-nominee Kirstin Scott Thomas) advise him to give up on his unlikely ambition, Thomas obsessively perseveres. He will have to face his own demons as well as the intense competitive qualifying rounds to reach the tournament and eventually face a young tennis genius who disturbingly reminds him of his younger self.

Final Set is a dramatic sports movie so I already knew that I would love this, but the film is just an amazingly deep emotional experience.  I loved seeing Thomas pursue his career despite his age, his financial needs, and his physical and mental setbacks.  He is a man on a mission and seeing him continue to pursue his dream is both joyous and painful to watch.  The movie also does not reveal too much about any one part of Thomas's life until later in the film, giving it an air of mystery as you watch the man pursue his dreams.  I really loved seeing how his real world and tennis pro life collided; he had to work to support his dream and often was in financial difficulties because of this.  

But Final Set is also a sports movie and the on screen tennis action needs to be judged as well.  And Final Set's tennis matches are engaging and full of drama.  I loved seeing Thomas compete and his triumphs and failures.  However, the tennis action in the beginning is a little sporadic.  Maybe it was becuase the film needed to save time for the amazing final match, but the earlier matches seemed to have too many cuts and shots of the players swinging. It would be shot after shot of a player swinging without seeing the ball or feeling the flow of hte match.  This was probably due to time as well done tennis matches can take a long time, but it still had a decidedly less excliting feel than some of the later sports drama.  But like I said, the final match is a spectacular one so the film finishes strong.

And Final Set has so much more going for it throughout.  The music is wonderfully done, with heavy stings underlying lots of the scenes that help to enhance the drama throuhgout.  Strong cello provides the perfect mood for Thomas's mental and life state, as well as the gravity of hsi situation where every match could be his last.  And I also loved the inherent push and pull between Thomas and his wife Eve, a former tennis player who has given up the game to focus on her family and career.  She knows all to well the cost of Thomas's pursuit of his dream, and seeing her insights and their tension really adds to the drama.  Add on top of this Thomas's mother Judith, who holds nothing back in her observations and criticisms of her son's tennis performance, and you have a movie with stakes much higher than one person's career. And at the end of this powerful, dramatic journey, you have a satisfying, dramatic ending that will have you holding your breath.

Final Set is a masterful sports drama, that focuses as much on life as it does on the sport through its fantastic characters, dramatic music, and exciting and intense finale.

Watch it.

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Final Set is available on August 27, 2021 via Virtual Cinema, VOD, and digital platforms.  For showtimes, click here.

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