The Queenstown Kings (2023)

The Queenstown Kings (2023)

Football heals family in this South African father-son sports drama



South Africa
English, Xhosa
Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa, Likhona Mgali, Tessa Twala
137 min

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It’s great that it’s not just about a player, but it’s also about a community – it really shines when it’s focused on this.

What it's about

After his father’s death, washed-up former pro-footballer Buyile returns to Queenstown and struggles to connect with his family, including his son Fezile, a promising prodigy in the sport they love

The take

The Queenstown Kings is a sports film that has plot points we’re all familiar with – alcoholic father trying to seek forgiveness from his son, a tempting offer for fame and riches, the standard training montage and more. These plot points sometimes go into melodramatic territory, but the film’s relationships make these scenes feel sincere, especially with the family dynamic that drives the film. And as Buyile strives to better himself to become a good example to the team, and Fezile makes different choices from his father, The Queenstown Kings feels sincere as a reminder of the better side of South African men, one that can be uncovered if they, and their community, believe in a higher dream.

What stands out

The Queenstown Kings is a sports film with enough heart for the Gigaba-Mahamba family dynamics to feel believable. The one between brothers-in-law Fana and Buyile are contemptuous, but rightfully so, as Buyile left Fana’s sister pregnant with Fezile, leaving Fana to pick up the slack as Fezile’s father figure and even Buyile’s community service officer – Unathi Platyi and Zolisa Xaluva’s performances make it seem believable. However, it’s the father-son dynamic between Buyile and Fezile which drives the story. While he’s not new to film, Fezile is Likhona Mgali’s first lead role in a film streamed globally, and Mgali is able to carry this role well. And Mgali and Xaluva’s familial chemistry makes the film feel believable, even if it goes through plot points we’ve seen in other dramas.

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