“Liverpool captains always deliver.”
Close your eyes and imagine a distant roaring of voices, the sound of thousands of people chanting and applauding. Then the curtain lifts and two things appear: a ball and a foot in a tightly laced shoe on top of it. A name, written on the shoe in bold letters: GERRARD.
Who are we talking about? It’s of course none other than Liverpool’s very own Steven Gerrard. The brand-new documentary Make Us Dream covers significant incidents of one of the most legendary careers in football, spanning from his early childhood, to his rise to the Liverpool first team and the turbulent ups and downs he faced playing with that very club: it’s the story of a bigger than life persona and a seesaw between shocked silence and deafening applause.
Liverpool was a tough reality when Steven grew up and football was one of those reliefs people found to put their sorrows away for 90 minutes; a window to heaven, and Steven made it his mission to be in that Liverpool heaven. His career in football is well documented from the start. We get to see early footage of young Steven, scoring 12 out of 27 goals at a junior’s match. His mum says of him that he was always laughing, but that probably was for her eyes only because on the early photos he already has that sinister look we’ll later see on the pitch. Comparing the young Gerrard from the photos to the Gerrard on the field, you’re looking at two different people. The pitch is home.
The film makes one thing crystal clear: Football in Liverpool is no sport. It’s religion and a family affair all in one. And even though the players might not be bound by blood, they’re bound by the pitch and by the people they’re representing. One who never took that for granted was Steven Gerrard. It was a burden and a gift. The movie stresses the astronomic amount of expectations he had to endure through pivotal moments of his career, the summits of joy playing for the club has taken him to, like after winning the legendary Champions League final against AC Milan, but it also shows the downside of the spotlight. Every time he made a mistake like scoring an own goal in the League Cup final of 2005 against Chelsea, it goes straight to his heart and he feels like he’s let his people down. The film highlights this fiercely emotional relationship between player and club and, maybe more importantly, player and fans which peaked in 2005 when we see Gerrard-tricots being burned due to rumours of him leaving the club. Ultimately, he stayed with Liverpool but what that really meant for him remains hidden. In general, he appears very contained and the film doesn’t show us much of the Gerrard besides the pitch. If there ever were strong feelings, we don’t see any of them, they’re all hidden behind that wrinkled forehead and iron stare, always analysing and always thinking ‘what’s next?’
Make Us Dream is rich in content; however, the form is slightly dissatisfying. We hardly get to see the captain from today’s perspective. It would have been incredibly interesting to hear him actually comment on the most important moments of his career and share some of his thoughts. In a way, he is surprisingly absent from the movie. Sure, we see all the footage of the past but the Steven Gerrard of the present remains concealed. Also, at one hour and fifty-two minutes of mostly voice over and game footage, the film feels monotonous and it is easy to get lost among the polyphony of largely unidentified voices.
Nevertheless, the film grants us a raw look into the life of a larger-than-life figure and shows us how he rose and fell time and time again with a stubborn persistence. In the end, he says that all he wanted was to make people proud. Coming back to the quote in the beginning, I think it’s fair to say that he absolutely delivered.