Ronnie Sandahl’s sporting drama places the career of dreams under the microscope as a rising footballing star experiences the dramatic trajectory and hardship that comes when trying to make it as a professional at the highest level. Based on the experiences of former Inter Milan and Swedish wonder kid Martin Bengtsson, who told of his own mental illness in his autobiography, Tigers follows Martin’s (Erik Enge) journey from Sweden to Italy as one of the biggest young talents in the world. Suddenly, he has the world at his feet and his continued burning drive to succeed begins to waiver, as hidden behind the curtain is a darker footballing world and threats that push him and may eventually break him into a million tiny pieces.
The movie highlights the very real, but concealed pressures in the world of professional football. There may well be money, cars and fame, but does it all buy you happiness? Is there really the support network required to help these young adults manage in life should the fantasy collapse? Most seventeen-year-olds are still in school, whereas in Tigers, young footballers are making making €500 wagers with each other over the smallest of things due to their warped concept of money.
The piercing eyes of Enge lead the way in the movie, with the Swedish actor fully encapsulating the appearance and lifestyle of a motivated teenager paving his way in the industry. Not a scene passes without him on screen and the actor does wonderfully well to deliver the vast array of emotions his character experiences during this rollercoaster ride. He is fully aware of his goals, but as he continues to push his body to the limits, the pressure of the situation becomes overwhelming and his nervous blinking only exemplifies the actor’s dedication to his character’s depiction.
Enge is supported by Alfred Enoch, an American goalkeeper who is also in the academy, and fellow Swede Vibeke, played by Frida Gustavsson. Both characters bring a different side of Martin to the forefront, albeit not particularly adding much to the plot themselves, but through the language barrier and social insecurities, the duo provide a sense of relief and security for Martin. However, even this safehouse begins to crumble around him when both are removed from his life.
The compelling element of the story comes primarily from the fact that it is largely true and this instils a degree of empathy in everything the viewer witnesses. Through Enge’s raw and visceral performance, we see an innocent soul, still a child, who is rushed into something that he was led to believe he was ready for, but the reality is he was still naive. It is a movie striking in its depiction and provokes thought with curiosity, along with a concern that Martin’s story may well be being experienced by many other young rising stars around the world. According to Tigers, even the seemingly padded world of football comes with its own perils and an industry that exploits its million-dollar talents needs to be aware of that.
Tigers is released in select cinemas on 1st July 2022.
Watch the trailer for Tigers here: