You won’t need to be a tennis fan to experience the challenge of the professional game, of the players who slip into anonymity, or are forced out due to injury. It’s an unglamorous and emotional rollercoaster side of the sport rarely seen on screen, and it comes alive in Final Set.
Alex Lutz imbues the trials of aged tennis player Thomas Edison, who at 37 is trying out for the French Open. Lutz does bear an uncanny resemblance to Swedish player, Stefan Edberg. The years since Edison’s quarter-final meltdown in 2001 have been lacklustre with only sporadic invitations to matches across Europe.
Edison’s wife Eve (Ana Girardot) who had also carved out a path to the top of the game, took a sidestep for motherhood and to allow Thomas to keep playing. They struggle to make ends meet, living off Thomas’ earnings. He takes public transport to and from games and receives no hand outs from sponsors. When shopping for his own gear in the sports store, Thomas looks up to meet the gaze of his much younger nemesis Damien Thosso (Jürgen Briand) in a promotional life-size cardboard cut out.
In between matches, Thomas coaches youngsters at his mother Judith’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) tennis club. It is the same club where as a child Thomas trained and showed the promise of being a world champion. Thomas encourages the parents of a promising youngster to take him up to the next level. But Judith disagrees, the guilt of pushing Thomas into the spotlight before he was mentally ready, is still present today.
A chance at a wild card entry into the Open is snatched away, and so begins Thomas’ arduous qualifying rounds to make the final draw. Only through conjuring the sound of the crowd chanting his name, and Eve’s reassuring smile from the stands, does he make it through the first three rounds, bleeding, blistered and exhausted.
The final qualifying game setup you might see coming, but nonetheless, the cinematography of match play will have you on the edge of your seat, as if you really are at Roland-Garros.
Final Set is showing as part of the 2021 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival. Check your local guides for screening times.
About Final Set
Length: 108 mins
Language: French with English subtitles
Written and directed by Quentin Reynaud
Star Alex Lutz, Ana Girardot, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tariq Bettahar, Damien Gouy