Film review and a chat with the filmmaker: ‘In the Middle’ by Greg Cruttwell

In this blog, I’ll review In the Middle and report about a chat with film director Greg Cruttwell. 

A ‘footie film’ may not fill you with enthusiasm, you’re thinking ‘under-dogs pull their fingers out and bag the cup’ type scenario. But this is different, it’s … charming? It’s a documentary, clearly made with love; love for the people interviewed and for the game.

A love I do not feel, I’ll be frank. I spent countless Sundays traipsing out to far-flung and well-hidden Surrey League playing fields in all weathers for my son’s footie team. And watching his games brought out the worst in most people. Ok they brought out the worst in me. But how CAN you stand there dispassionately and let life play out. You scream at the fouls, groan at the missed opps, and, yell at the ref, yes.

Greg Cruttwell movie In the middle POSTER

Well that’s the old me. Whoever watches this beautiful film will NEVER ref-bait again. It’s a super-touching documentary about a handful of weather-beaten refs whose mettle has been tested a thousand thousand times, by players and parents, parents especially, but they just can’t give up for love of the sport.

They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and persuasions. And they get grief for it, but they rise above. They get verbally abused often and although they have recourse to yellow and red cards, use them rarely. One was proud to say he had never sent anyone off in 40 years, he told them to fuck off instead. It’s laugh out loud delicious.

The Producer, Greg Cruttwell is deep in football himself, Balham FC to be precise, so these refs from the Surrey League must have screamed ‘material!’ Their machine-gun wit contrasts sharply with the hot-headed confrontations on the pitch, which  is why they do such a great job. You need steel to ref well, nobody wants a softie.

Go see. Defo.


The interview

Madeleine Neave (MN): The refs speak so warmly and openly, how long have you known these much-maligned heroes.

Greg Cruttwell (GC): I’ve known and seen most of them in action for many years. Three of them however, Ann Marie, “Mouse” and Elle, I met for the first time when making the film.

MN: What characteristics were you looking for in the refs when you were planning the documentary?

GC: I wanted an eclectic group of contrasting characters who would accurately represent their colleagues in grassroots football.

MN:What was the most challenging aspect of the whole project which took you by surprise?

GC: Covid was challenging, as was the editing process. As with many films there was a lot of good stuff that didn’t make the final film.

MN: What’s next? Parking attendants?!

GC: It was actually remote control car racing 🙂 I made a doc called “King Of Clubs” which looks into a fascinating world that I knew nothing about, at the same time as In The Middle. it was completed in September 2022.

MN: Thank you, Greg,  for answering my questions!

The trailer


In the Middle is in cinemas 31st March 2023.

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