Based in South-East London, in the 1980s, Outside Bet is a heartwarming comedy about a close-knit group of working class friends whose local pub is their home-from-home. A mixture of generations, all working at the local printing firm, their story is set against the backdrop of the Wapping newspaper dispute; a time of bitter strikes, mass redundancies and financial uncertainty. And a time when their camaraderie – deftly conveyed through their quick-fired banter and great one-liners – meant even more than ever.
One day a man walks into the pub and gives them the chance to buy a racehorse – a long-held dream for two of the group: the racing-obsessed ‘Threads’, and ‘Bax’, the son he weaned on the gee-gees. When Threads becomes ill, it’s the impetus the group needs to chip in and buy the horse between them – pinning their life savings, dreams and aspirations on it winning a big race.
Well-written, well directed and well cast, this is a story with heart and a British movie to be proud of. It seamlessly mixes some of our best, most-loved and long-established actors, such as Bob Hoskins, with newer talent, such as Calum McNab. No doubt my London roots and my age had something to do with my enjoyment of this film – the 80s music played throughout, from The Style Council to Prefab Sprout, are part of the soundtrack to my teenage years. But its appeal goes far beyond that.
Outside Bet is a funny, genuine, family film that you can really settle down to watch. The characters are the kind of harmless, lovable rogues that you’d find in proper boozers up and down the country and happily have a drink with, knowing you’ll hear an interesting story or two. There are some good subplots and even a couple of cheesy moments can’t take away from the overall feel-good factor that it leaves you with. Ultimately, it’s a story about friendship, love and hope, with a lot of laughs thrown in along the way. What’s not to like about that?