Film Review: Ping Pong (2002)
‘You’re watching a film about ping pong?’ my girlfriend said.
‘Well, table tennis. It’s a proper sport. It’s in the Olympics.’
‘I can’t believe you’re watching a film about table tennis.’
‘It’s not really about table tennis. It’s about people who excel at something and have to decide whether to sacrifice other things in their life to try to be the best or to settle for just being good. It’s a dilemma we all face in some form or another.’
‘Okay, I’ll give it a go.’
And she was glad she did because it turns out that Ping Pong is a fascinating drama. Set in Japan, it tells the story of two male friends, their trainers and the high school tournaments they compete in. ‘Compete’ is the operative word here because these boys are fanatical and winning is everything, at least to Peco. His ambition is to turn professional, while his friend Smile just enjoys playing.
When a new player, China, is drafted in from Shanghai by another team, Peco is intrigued. But when he suffers a crushing defeat to China, he undergoes a personal crisis, realising that to compete with such outstanding players he must dedicate himself totally to the sport. Both boys face this dilemma and ultimately make different choices.
Director Fumihiko Sori gives us a compelling insight into the world of competitive sport. This was his first film and proved a great success in Japan, gaining 8 Academy Award nominations. Highly recommended.
Review by David Hawthorn