IT would have been easier, if cheesier, to call it Just Not Cricket but writer-director Paul Morriosn wanted to catch a state of mind.

Wondrous Oblivion does not suggest cricket, much like Mark Herman's Purely Belter did not suggest football fanaticism. Then Morrison would say his cricketing social comedy is "not just cricket" but a comment on racism too. Hence Just Not Cricket.

Like a dropped slip catch, the title is a missed opportunity so word of mouth must suffice for a delightfully detailed English film that could yet become the new East Is East or Bend It Like Beckham.

The setting is the early 1960s in East London, where 11-year-old David Wiseman (Sam Smith) is a Jewish boy whose love of cricket stretches beyond the boundary of his hapless playing skills and beyond the understanding of his non-cricketing, workaholic father.

However, when their new Jamaican neighbours construct a cricket net in their back garden - a magical scene - David has found his paradise. He ignores his parents' rule not to play with them, and does not sense the hostility shown to Dennis Samuels (Delroy Lindo) by the rest of the street. Instead, he befriends his daughter Judy (Leonie Elliott), and his cricketing skills flourish under Dennis's gentle guidance.

David's neglected mother Ruth (Emily Woof) starts to take a shine to him too, breaking boundaries too by accompanying him to a dance hall night of joyous ska music.

However, the friendships do not flow like a David Gower cover drive. Smith splendidly conveys the gawky, tongue-twisted awkwardness of a boy who must choose between his new coach and new school friends, while Woof and the quietly powerful Lindo capture the high and lows of an uneasy romance (like Brief Encounter nearly 60 years ago).

If the warm-hearted comedy ultimately prevails and leads to a unifying happy ending, the stultifying influence of racial prejudice nags away like Iago. However, what makes Morrison's film 'Wondrous' is David and Judy's mutual awakening to the joys and values of Jewish, Caribbean and cricket culture. Don't let it slip into oblivion.

Updated: 16:26 Thursday, April 22, 2004