My whole life I’ve lived in or around Rotterdam, a city I love with a passion. For those that don’t know the city, it has been one of the biggest ports of the world for years, which always gave it a working class feel (although that has changed a bit through the years). People from Rotterdam have their own way of speaking and their own type of humor and this movie is set in “my city”. The Rotterdam marathon is something I’ve never participated in, but I have stood at the sidelines since my father ran it two times (if I remember it correctly). Suffice to say I was interested to see if this movie would embrace its locale to the fullest.
The story is about 5 men who work in a garage, owned by Gerard (Stefan de Walle). It’s clear these guys are close friends (except for Egyptian Youssoef (Mimoun Oaïssa), who seems to have to do most of the work), playing card games and drinking beer together. It turns out business is not going as it should and when the others find out there is actually a big debt in unpaid taxes. They have only a couple of months to pay it off and have no way in getting the money that quick. That is until Youssoef tells them he used to run marathons and got a lot of money through sponsoring. Although the men don’t participate in any sports and eat very unhealthy, they do see an opportunity to get out of debt. They will have to find a sponsor and manage to finish the marathon. That’s easier said than done as most of them have serious personal issues they will have to deal with and it’s that fact which gives the movie so much heart.
The concept of De Marathon isn’t new (you could easily compare it to something like The Fully Monty), but it has been adapted perfectly to its setting in Rotterdam. Almost all actors speak with a Rotterdam accent (most of them are from Rotterdam) and you wouldn’t mistake the characters coming from somewhere else. There has always been some sort of rivalry between Rotterdam and Amsterdam (which is probably because of football, although personally I never felt that), so when the group visits the main capital (a city they genuinely hate) it results in some very funny moments. The movie holds some surprises for the viewer and nicely captures one of the biggest events of the year (part of it was shot during the actual marathon). As a true “Rotterdammer” I really enjoyed this movie. You’ll care for this group of men and will laugh and cry with what they are going through. De Marathon is one of the better Dutch comedies and worth watching.