David Kross, Freya Mavor, John Henshaw, Gary Lewis
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…a drama fuelled by fiery ambition that is extinguished by miniseries production sensibilities.
It is a coincidence that the saying ‘everything but the kitchen sink’, an idiom created during World War II to describe bombardment, originates from the same time period as biographical-drama The Keeper.
Where there is struggle, there is also buttery optimism. Where there are attempts to explore the culture of war, there’s also a blossoming romance. Yes, WWII is a complicated period in history, yet The Keeper’s treatment of the life of Bert Trautmann – a German prisoner-of-war turned professional goalkeeper for Manchester City – as a trope renders the film as a series of clichés so predictable that they can be seen from across a football field.
While The Keeper is not the manipulative and offensive travesty that was Where Hands Touch – the other 2018 film focusing on a German soldier’s relationship – its attempt to present itself as a tale of perseverance amidst the backdrop of cultural complexity becomes buried underneath heavy deposits of melodrama.
This desire to go over-the-top carries through not only the expressionless performances of the cast, as if Director Marcus H. Rosenmüller had instructed the actors to express the paranoia and fear-of-the-time by delivering lines in monotone, but also in a screenplay that exhibits the ethos of a Hallmark film. This is best shown during a cringe-worthy tussle so ludicrous that it reduces all emotional weight to rubble.
A desire by The Keeper to persistently present metaphysical elements to highlight the perils of war is so dreadfully applied, that it deducts from time which could have been spent highlighting Trautmann’s remarkable career and the impact he had on improving the perceptions of German people who were opposed to Nazism. These fascinating themes are glossed over in favour of a gawkish connection between the war and Trautmann’s off-field hardships, told in a sloppy haste.
2008’s The Reader, a film which too occurs during WWII and has the involvement of David Kross (who portrays Trautmann), faced a similar hurdle in dissuading viewers from passing judgement at a character involved in war crimes. For The Keeper, that is unfortunately where any comparison stops due to a failure by the filmmakers to recognise Trautmann’s shame, a theme that represents remorse in the atrocities that occurred during the time, as opposed to regret.
Ultimately, The Keeper is a drama fuelled by fiery ambition that is extinguished by miniseries production sensibilities.