James Erskine’s new documentary The End of the Storm is an enjoyable look back at Liverpool’s historic Premier League championship season.
Before last season, it had been 30 years since Liverpool had lifted a Premier League trophy. During those 30 years, Liverpool was still one of the most successful and recognizable clubs in the world, but, time and time again, it would come up short of their ultimate goal and end a season in disappointment. James Erskine’s new documentary The End of the Storm tells the story of the 2019-20 season, when they were able to navigate the ups and downs of what would go on to become a very turbulent campaign, in order to finally reach the top of the mountain and earn another championship.
Erskine, who has directed past sports documentaries like One Night in Turin (2010), is no stranger to delving into big moments that happen in sports, and how they transcend the action that happens on the field. With The End of the Storm, we get an inside look at last season from the points of view not only of the manager and players but of fans from all around the world as well, who talk about what it meant to them. “This isn’t simply a story about an outstanding sporting achievement,” Erskine said in a release about the film. “It is also a story about emotion, community and self-belief — in a moment we need all these things more than ever.”
The End of the Storm is going to be a must watch for Liverpool supporters, and is a fascinating time capsule to look back on one of the most unique seasons in history. A film like this could easily end up a generic season-in-review that you could buy from a team shop after they make a run to a championship. But Erskine clearly set out to do something different with The End of the Storm, choosing to have it not only highlight the team but also shine a light on the diverse multicultural fanbase the club has around the globe. Hearing from the fans, knowing how important the club is to them and showing us the story of this season from the scope of what breaking this 30-year drought means to the club and the people who support it adds stakes to the documentary in a way that just framing it with match-by-match highlights could never have done.
Football is able to transcend moments and impact people on a different level when they devotedly support a club. One of the fans featured in The End of the Storm is a young man in Wuhan, China, who talks about the way life came to a halt when the coronavirus first began to wreak havoc in his hometown before spreading around the world. We sit with him, alone in his apartment, as he watches Liverpool, talking about how worried he is for his family and friends. “At least for 90 minutes or so, I can block out the world and just focus on the game,” he says. We’ve all been in his shoes at some point in the last several months. We’ve been alone, scared and anxious about what was going to happen next and wanting to find that escape. Seeing him use Liverpool and use this magical season as that thing he could use to get away for a little while was an emotional moment and gets you to invest in the outcome even more.
Another nice touch is that Erskine gets you invested in the 2019-20 season by showing you how the club got to that point in the years before. Jurgen Klopp, the German manager who arrived at Liverpool in 2015, is the figure whom the story is framed around. It’s a nice touch to the film that includes clips from the years before the 2019-20 season, as you get to understand the ups and downs that helped Liverpool build to the moment when they eventually managed to become champions. Instead of only getting to see the championship season, we’re on the journey with Klopp and the rest of the club through the struggles, the moments of progress and the process of the roster being built piece-by-piece. It’s almost like a great heist movie, where you see the mastermind pulling the strings behind the plan, piecing together his crew for their biggest job yet: Klopp begins to bring new players into the team who would go on to play key roles in the title run, and we see the vision for what the club would look like start to come to fruition. It’s another entertaining section to the film, as it takes a different look at how the title team is put together.
The film portrays the coronavirus pandemic in an interesting way — showing the virus and the global pandemic as the first thing that was really able to slow down Liverpool that season. Erskine cleverly introduces it, doing so in the middle of a montage of goals and highlights, as Liverpool kept winning and extending its dominant lead over the rest of the lead to run away with the league … until, slowly, we start to see people walking around in masks, and news clips talking about the pandemic breaking out and hitting England. Seeing talking heads with players like Jordan Henderson, as well as Klopp, about the uncertainty of that moment and not knowing when or if they’d be able to finish the season when they had been so close to capturing the points they needed to claim the trophy.
The journey of the season culminates not on a football pitch but in an outdoor watch party, where the team gathers together as they clinch the championship in the closing weeks of the season after it was restarted. Even as a person who knows what’s coming, having followed what happened last season in the league, it’s hard to not get emotional watching the reactions of the players as they realize they are finally going to be Premier League champions. From the amazing run they had early in the year to nearly getting it taken from them when the coronavirus hit, the sense of relief and pure joy that each of them have in that moment is clear and is a great pay-off for the road that The End of the Storm takes us on to get to that point.
Klopp shines as Liverpool’s architect, and it’s fascinating to watch him talk about the way he tried to build a great culture around the club off the pitch that would carry over to good performances when they stepped onto it. The End of the Storm is a familiar idea — a team goes on run to win a championship and we see all of the adversity they overcome throughout the process. But Erskine’s commitment to add that personal touch with all of the people involved elevates it into something more special, and a good entry into the ever-growing number of documentaries about the turbulent year that 2020 has become.
The End of the Storm is released on Digital, DVD and Blu Ray in the U.K. from Monday 30th November. Pre-order it here.
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