My fascination with tennis has come in spots throughout the early part of my life. In the 1980’s, I was fascinated by John McEnroe with his brilliant play and fiery emotion. In the 1990’s I was smitten with Jennifer Capriati, but also impressed by her tenacity at such a young age. I still remembering listening to the broadcast of Goran Ivanisevic finally winning at Wimbledon in the early 2000’s. And that’s where I stopped watching, really, still eager to see the amazing game play, but no longer finding the characters I so desperately wanted to look for. Today’s film is Final Set, which follows an aging tennis player who has one final shot at becoming the player he always learned to be.
A tennis player serves a ball in slow motion. It takes a couple of minutes, and then it stops.
The next scene we see a young 17-year-old tennis prodigy named Damien Thosso (played by Jurgen Briand). Thomas Joseph Edison (played by Alex Lutz) watches on a nearby television while sitting at the doctor’s office. He looks over his battered hands and is called to go into the doctor’s office. Thomas is placed into a MRI machine for some scanning, particularly around his knee. His knee is wearing down into nothing from years of playing tennis, and at 37 years old, there isn’t much left.
Later on that day, Thomas shops at a sporting goods store only to run into a cardboard cutout of Damien Thosso. He gets home to his son and wife, Eve (played by Ana Girardot). As he plays with his son while talking to his wife, we learn about his tennis career at this point. He plays the small tournaments, earning what money he can. In his off time, he coaches some kids at the local country club, which is owned by Thomas’ mother Judith (played by Kristin Scott Thomas). We also learn that Eve was a former tennis player as well, but decided to give up on her dreams so that Thomas could try and fulfill his.
The French Open announces their wild card spots, which are given for those rising stars and ceremonial favorites that aren’t rated quite high enough to get in by their rankings. Unfortunately Thomas does not get the nod and will have to play through the qualifiers and win. Thomas gets to his first qualifying game and quickly finds himself in the hole, losing the first set 6-2. The second set is no kinder to the once-famous tennis prodigy as he is down 4-1. On the brink of elimination (these are best of three set qualifiers), can he put it together and recapture his early fame?
Without giving too much away, Thomas Joseph Edison does find himself in more tennis games to come. But the real story here is the emotional and physical toll this has on the battered tennis player as he progresses through the qualifiers. Alex Lutz does a fantastic job of portraying the aging sports star, but the supporting cast does an equally good job of grounding him and giving him a lot of depth. There is a lot of story here, and we feel every bit of pain in the story’s past and present journey.
The only negative I can find is that every tennis match is a nail-biter. Thomas is always against the wall and then has to battle back. Sure, it raised the tension, but after a while it kinda felt like the same old hat. The nail biting should be reserved for the special moments. However, this film has a wonderful underdog feel and should have everyone rooting for Thomas shortly after the matches start.
Theatrical Trailer 1:45 and Other Assorted Trailers : My King, Curiosa, and Corpus Christi.
Q&A with Quentin Reynard and Alex Lutz 30:02 : We join the director as well as the star of Final Set, in this sit-down talk. Alex is actually via videophone or whatnot, and gets a translator. They use the familiar method of Alex answering the question in full (and whatever else he would like to add), and then the translator several minutes later re-speaking it in English. What makes it even odder is when they do the translation rather than show the translator for any more than a few seconds, they show the director Quentin Reynard just sitting there, just doing his best to smile or actually eating a piece of fruit. It’s just weird. Otherwise it’s a perfectly fine interview.
It’s funny how many sports films some of us can watch where the plucky underdog goes against what seems to be insurmountable odds. Whether they win or lose is no longer the issue, but the chance to live their dream and for just a moment be cheered and adored by the fans is the real goal. Final Set does a wonderful job of establishing this kind of movie with that hope and story that brings the crowd to their feet by the final credits.
The cast beyond Alex Lutz is also well managed, and the film on a whole can be enjoyed by even some of those sports fans who loathe subtitles. This film is a very easy recommendation to make. Billie Jean King once said, “One of the things it taught me is that every ball that comes to me, I have to make a decision.” Well, the decision here is go see this movie. Enjoy.
Final Set (DVD) Review
09/19/2022 @ 9:53 pm
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