If you haven’t seen this film, please do not go into it thinking it is about this Christian runner who complained about having to run on Sunday at the 1924 Olympics. That is a couple of minutes near the end of the film and nothing more. However, if you think that is what the film is about then everything leading up to it gets painted with a Hallmark TV Movie/7th Heaven religious nonsense vibe that spoils almost everything.
The film is about the two men shaking hands above. They both go to Cambridge together and they both run. The man on the left is Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) who is Jewish and runs to prove something to the world. He doesn’t get treated badly because he’s Jewish, but he is still thought of as the Jew. The man on the right is Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) who is Christian and runs because as he puts it God made him fast and to turn away from that is to turn away from him. While Abrahams always seems to run out of spite and anger, especially after Eric beat him, Eric runs with an almost childlike joy.
The film starts in the 1970’s with a funeral and then looks back at these two men. As a result, they are portrayed in a heroic almost TV Movie of the week style complete with slow motion and other stylistic touches. We follow them from their arrival at Cambridge through the 1924 Olympics. It’s at the Olympics that Eric complains about his qualifying heat being on a Sunday. So they switch him to another event that doesn’t run on Sunday, problem solved. Don’t even think of it when you go to watch this film.
Through these two men we get to see the experience of running and the way it affects the people involved. Unfortunately for me, the film was spoiled by what I wrote at the beginning. Even if it hadn’t been, it just didn’t connect with me at all. It’s a bit of knee jerk verdict, but it’s worth a look.