Game of Life (2007) – By Cary Conley

Game of Life follows five families who are loosely connected because their children all play on the same soccer team. Tom Sizemore stars as an ex-soldier who suffers from PTSD and anger issues stemming from a horrific event during his time in Iraq. These issues wrecked his marriage and are now wrecking his relationship with his young son. Tom Arnold and Heather Locklear star as a couple who have lost touch with each other. He is jealous of her burgeoning fashion career and suspects her of cheating while she has fallen in love with the attention and adoration she receives from the fashion industry. Jill Hennessy and Richard T. Jones play an interracial couple who have split after she leaves the family to pursue her dream of becoming a professional singer. She never wanted a husband, a baby, or a family and resents the feeling of becoming forced into giving up her career when she became pregnant. He simply wants things to work out for the sake of his son. Then there are the Latino couple who have moved to America to better their prospects for their family. She works as a maid and he as a day-laborer but they are finding it tough to make ends meet. He wants to leave America, but she stubbornly persists, all the while hoping and praying they will finally discover the secret of the American Dream. And finally, there is a Moroccan couple who have found the American Dream. They are rich, beautiful, and successful. Outwardly all seems well. But the marriage is on the rocks and she suspects he is sleeping with her best friend. She is torn between tradition–accepting his cheating ways as part of the bargain of marriage–and humiliation–wanting to leave before it’s too late to start over again.

Game of Life is an ensemble piece that moves freely and easily between the couples in the story, examining the motivations within each nuclear family as well as within each individual. Each story is classic and age-old: soldiers haunted by guilt; couples who have lost touch with each other; resentment over lost dreams; racism; and the struggle to become successful in a foreign land. The lives of these people unfold across a terrible season of youth soccer that sees one team suffering defeat after defeat, unable to win even a single game. It is a sensitive and sometimes tender human drama. Director Joseph Merhi deftly tugs at the viewers’ heart strings at just the right time and is able to expertly manipulate the viewers’ emotions throughout the duration of the film.

Merhi also wrote the script. While Merhi does ask the audience to make some minor leaps of faith in storytelling (Sizemore’s PTSD is overcome by one stern talking-to by his aging father that allows him to turn his entire life around; predictably, the little team finally wins a game just as each couple is resolving its issues) it is generally very well-written and authentic: watching the scenes unfold gives one the sense that these people are genuine, their emotions laid bare. Merhi is also able to supply some humorous events as well as several sappy-sweet and fairly predictable endings for most of the couples but has also created some tragic twists to keep things a bit edgy. The ensemble cast is very strong and the acting is both superb and very natural.

Game of Life was completed in 2007 but has had a troubled distribution history. But now Breaking Glass Pictures has picked the film up for distribution (it hits the streets on September 4). While there are some minor flaws in storytelling, Game of Life is dramatic, funny, and at once uplifting as well as tragic. For more information go to www.breakingglasspictures.com.