First things first, watch the trailer. This one is safe to watch without spoiling too much, don't worry. The target audience seems to be Malaysians above 30. You do not need to know much about football.
The Malaysian film industry generally has most of its best stuff come from independent film makers who release their material on social media, as opposed to the watery material that ends up on the big screen every festive season that do not speak greatly of the average Malaysian movie-goer's maturity. The last notable Malaysian movie for me was Yasmin Ahmad's Sepet, and that was 2004!
It's such pleasure when a historic gem like Ola Bola comes around.
Why should you, the above-average, educated, football-loving or otherwise, Malaysian watch it?
Because it reminds us that despite the current state of Malaysian football, we have potential.
We had a strong team, the then Harimau Malaya. We may not have one now, but this sport is our national passion, second to only maybe badminton.
Because of all the 1980s memorabilia and artifacts of the time, from the light lamps to the sewing machines, from the latex processing method to the chicken essence boiling. These are things slowly lost to time, as each generation passes. I was only recently pleasantly surprised to find the old made-in-China hand towels still available for sale, albeit not as cheaply as before.
This film, despite being half fiction, has made itself part of Malaysian history, and is definitely a good candidate for future literature studies many decades from now.
The various hurdles and judgements passed by the families of players and the expectations placed on them can hit home to a lot of us, and the simple ride back home on an empty village road surrounded by greenery reminds us of a simpler life people once lead. Contrast this to the time one spends now on the LDP and Federal highways every day, running in the rat race to our own little goals.
After the movie ended (note: you need to watch the credits), as I shuffled out of the cinema alongside other moviegoers, it is obvious the Malaysia potrayed that most senior citizens of Kuala Lumpur remember, no longer exists. The crowd in today's globalised Kuala Lumpur no longer matches the demographic or the spirit of the people in the movie.
It is a world that will disappear with the generation who lived it, making the value of this movie immeasurable as it captures so much of that life.
The only weak points would be the hints of amateur acting showing through. Marienne Tan's beginning and ending scenes unfortunately would flicker me out of the zone, mostly because I had expected better in a film that spent so much care on the details.
The placement of the senior Balak Eric and Marienne in the midst of a tale being told of the past however was seamless, and the many sentimental little pieces of Malaysian life in the 80's will make many of us smile.
TLDR : Lingghezhi rating 8/10. Must watch for Malaysians.