“Bobby Fischer was a man unlike any other. He is known for his quick smarts and fast-paced skills surrounding all things related to chess. It’s unknown why, but one day, Bobby Fischer vanished, and no one knew where he went. Did he die, or perhaps he went into hiding? Nowadays, people often wonder if another skilled player like the great Bobby Fischer will ever appear.
Set in New York City, we follow Josh (Max Pomeranc), a shy seven-year-old boy. One day, Josh becomes curious about the process and workings of chess, particularly when he notices various homeless people playing the game in a local park. At first, Joshua’s mother, Bonnie (Joan Allen), is slightly put off, even more so when she and Joshua see the homeless people yelling at the chess boards while also conducting illegal gambling. However, she soon warms up to the idea and discovers that Josh is a brilliant chess player. When she explains this discovery to her husband, Fred (Joe Mantegna), he struggles to accept it. Seeking the truth for himself, Fred offers Josh a chess game and is soon amazed at Josh’s ability and skills. Soon, Fred requests the support of a mentor and teacher, Bruce Pandolfini (Ben Kingsley), who will professionally train Josh further. At this stage of his life, Josh enjoys playing chess, but the pressure from a professional chess teacher and a father who only wants his son to do well could alter Josh’s love for chess and, instead, take a turn for the worse.
“Searching for Bobby Fischer” is much more than a film focusing on all things surrounding chess. It’s also a heartfelt drama in which young Josh finds something that brings him joy and delight. The film also focuses strongly on the relationship aspects, including Josh’s father, Fred, his new teacher and mentor, and a stranger named Vinnie (Laurence Fishburne), who often finds himself skillfully beating opponents at chess in the local park. Because of its extensive range of excellent characters, the film is well-suited to a broad audience and carries many key messages that are impactful and memorable. Naturally, as Josh’s skills in chess grow stronger, he begins to feel the pressure of having to succeed in both the game and in life itself. Fred also wants his son to do well (as a father would), but once again, he must make hard choices that may alter his relationship with his son.
Performances here are excellent, with Ben Kingsley and actor Laurence Fishburne bringing plenty of likable moments, and memorable line deliveries are also on display here. Young Max Pomeranc as Josh is also great here, and audiences will also believe his characteristics, including his innocence, shyness, and honesty. As for the character of Fred, actor Joe Mantegna is a bit wooden in some scenes, almost like this was a miscast. The pacing here is excellent, slightly predictable in some regions of its story in the third act. However, the drama on display by the end still feels unexpectedly terrific and gratifying.
Overall, carrying a wide range of characters and themes, “Searching for Bobby Fischer” is much more than just a film about chess. The drama aspects are impactful and memorable; everything on-screen is suitable and relevant regardless of age or current position in life. The pacing here is excellent, although slightly predictable in some areas of the plot, but its level of drama, on the other hand, is more surprising and pleasing. Performance-wise, young Max Pomeranc is stunning here, along with the actors Ben Kingsley and Laurence Fishburne, who also shine flawlessly here. Highly recommended.”