‘Don’t Take Me Home’ – Film Review


New documentary about the greatest moment in Welsh football history

There are long-suffering sports fans… and then there are followers of the Welsh national football team. Until last summer’s Euros, it had been almost 60 years since Wales had qualified for a major tournament. After decades of agonising near-misses, finally, in 2016, they made it. Don’t Take Me Home – named after the supporters’ chant that would become synonymous with the team’s unlikely successful run – tells the story of Wales’ giddy summer in France.

Award-winning Merthyr Tydfil documentary maker Jonny Owen pieces together match highlights, behind-the-scenes smartphone footage and new interviews with key figures. Likeable and articulate manager Chris Coleman takes the lead. It begins by going back further, revisiting the challenging circumstances surrounding his appointment following the shocking death in 2011 of former coach, and Coleman’s close friend, Gary Speed. It was a painful period, but one that would galvanise a group of players who would go on to make history.

In the competition five years later, Wales’ success was a classic, plucky-underdog sports story. It revisits their win over Slovakia in their opening match, the last ditch loss to England and their sensational performance against Russia on their way to topping the group, and ultimately an unlikely appearance in the last four against the tournament’s eventual winners Portugal. Of course, this wasn’t a real-life Miracle On Ice. When the thousands of fans – ‘The Red Wall’ – lined the streets of Cardiff to welcome the squad home, there was no trophy. But they’d jumped more than 100 places in the world rankings over four years and became the smallest country to ever reach the semi-final of a major tournament.

It was about pride and team spirit. The contagious joy in the film is seeing the stuff outside of the games: the small moments of the players bonding, Gareth Bale messing about on a golf buggy and captain Ashley Williams recalling how he’d watch Rocky IV on match day, plus the countless shots of fans having the time of their lives. It’s cheesy in parts, sure, but it’d struggle not to be. As one exhilarated supporter towards the end puts it: “We’ve taken too many hours off work, we’ve spent too much money, but do we care? No!”