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FILM Review


Written by Smari Gunn & Stephanie Thorpe
. Smari Gunn & Logi Sigursveinsson

8 March, 2024

Football has always been about community. People who come together because of a shared passion for a sport that is as essential as breathing; football is life. Smari Gunn & Logi Sigursveinsson’s feature documentary The Home Game may tell the surprising, and at times touching, story of a small Icelandic fishing town’s desire to host their debut home game, but it goes way beyond that. The Home Game is a film about hope, dreaming, and, most of all, community.


Few things can capture the imagination quite like sports, and for most of the world, life begins and ends with football. In 1994, Viðar Gylfason had the idea of turning an unused piece of baron land into a football pitch, which led to the creation of Reynir FC. There is a magnetism that emanates from Viðar as he reflects on this time, and it’s clear why he was able to galvanise the local community so much in 1994. Alas Reynir’s first match wasn’t a home game but was with the neighbouring Golf Club, and they lost 10-0.


Though this defeat would have a lasting impact on Viðar, the experience of the team, the idealism, and the inspirational spirit of Viðar proved to be longer-lasting. For him and the team, this wasn’t just a football team or club; Reynir FC was about re-connecting their community. Now twenty years later, and in the throngs of a global pandemic, Kári, Viðar’s son, is picking up the mantle and is as determined as his father to have Hellissandur host their debut home game.

Kári seems well placed for this challenge, as he runs the local hostel-come-theatre and was instrumental in having Hellissandur become a hub for street art. As the camera pans around the idyllic fishing towns of less than 400 people, huge murals can be spotted on the side of buildings. Kári’s passion and determination aren’t faulted by his inexperience, and throughout the whole process, Viðar is there, sometimes in the background, offering reassurance if or when needed. 


Though there are not as many scenes with Kári and Viðar, I think this serves the film well and allows Kári to forge his own path without being in the shadow of his father. Viðar is present, and the closeness, love, admiration, and respect are clear to see as we see father and son paying with Kári’s son. Seeing these three generations of Gylfason's was incredibly reassuring, with Kári's son already being imbued by the ideas of passion, community, and family. Even in the face of all the paperwork and pressure, Kári never seems daunted and maintains this great sense of fun. 

As Kári began to bring the team together, he said something that really stuck with me: that for many of the town's youth, there are few opportunities for them, and this is why they had gravitated towards the rebooted team. We know what happens to small towns when there is a lack of opportunity: the community breaks up, people move, and the places become even more isolated. It is in these moments that Sigursveinsson’s cinematography really captures the beauty and serenity of Hellissandur. For a moment audiences are able to feel the stillness, the calm, and this beautiful togetherness that make places like Hellissandur so inviting. 

The more Viðar, Kári, and the residents share about the meaning of the team, the more inspired their story becomes. But it’s when Freydís Bjarnadóttir is introduced that the tone of the documentary changes. Bjarnadóttir, a former player on the Icelandic national team, was part of Reynir FC youth squad. When Kári goes to her home to encourage her to join the team, her eyes light up. Bjarnadóttir recalls how Viðar always made sure she could play with the boys, and his effort to include her left their mark. Almost teary-eyed as Bjarnadóttir shakes Kári’s hand, you can feel a full circle moment for them both; there is no home game without Bjarnadóttir, and the handshake affirms that. I can hear the roar from the audience when Bjarnadóttir made Reynir FC history—a moment that I am sure will inspire all those who follow. 

When it comes time for the match, the audience is so gripped that it is as though we are watching it live. The missed goals, tackles, and penalties get groans; the near misses get even louder groans; and when the opposing team scores their first goal, your heart sinks and you feel for the Reynir FC goalkeeper. Just how Gunn and Sigursveinsson managed to create this level of genuine tension and audience connection is a testimony to their approach as filmmakers and the audiences bond with Reynir FC. 

"...what The Home Game does is show that when you give your community hope and a purpose, that can be all the inspiration it needs."

What makes The Home Game such a heartfelt film is the careful approach Gunn and Sigursveinsson have taken in bringing this small town's story to the big screen. There is no fluff and no drama for the sake of the story arc; what you get is a film about a town that regained its spirit. After the film's UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, I spoke with co-writer and producer Stephanie Thorpe about the significance of the film and why it has this indescribable pull. No matter if it's a small town or a big city, people need hope; they need a purpose, and in this current social and political climate, hope can be a dangerous thing. Long before the pandemic, our communities had already begun to fracture, and we started self-imposed isolation by locking ourselves into our telephones and computers rather than opening ourselves to new, creative challenges. And yet, what The Home Game does is show that when you give your community hope and a purpose, that can be all the inspiration it needs.


It’s easy to label The Home Game as a classic ‘underdog story’, but I wouldn’t want to put it behind this tagline. The Home Game is much more than that. What Gunn and Sigursveinsson show is a town filled with characters, life, stories, humour, respect, and love. They show that sometimes all it takes is for someone to be so fearless and selfless in their vision to make a difference and to leave an impact. Kári, inspired by what his father had done and what he had been able to create, was able to take it to the next level. 


The Home Game is a small film with a big message: never give up on yourself, your community, or your dreams, ever.

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