Best

 

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A sympathetic film about the famed footballer which shows how the Best man lost.

 
Best

  

When this documentary by Daniel Gordon played at the 2016 London film Festival its title was George Best: All by Himself but that has now been shortened to the simple but clear Best. However, that does make it necessary to point out that Gordon's film is entirely distinct from Mary McGuckian's dramatised take on the footballer's life which, made in 2000, also opted for Best as its title.

 

A phrase more usually associated with the world of literary biographies comes up at the close of Gordon's      documentary when the film is described as 'unauthorised'. This is surprising given that this detailed portrait of the famous sportsman seems straightforward and honest (this is no hagiography but in depicting the life of a man whose early fame gave way to years of alcoholism and decline the film's tone is sympathetic - indeed it is suggested that his downfall was a Shakespearean tragedy). It could be that the absence of any fresh contributions by George Best's second wife, Alex, or by Liam, the son of his first marriage, explains the need for this film to be described as unauthorised even though George's first wife Angie plays a considerable part along with friends both on and off the pitch. Furthermore, as the original title indicated, Gordon's film makes detailed use of past interviews and recorded comments by George Best himself who was always ready to admit his failings (at one point we hear him declare "I'm my own worst enemy").

 

Those keen on football will find this an able account of an outstanding player which, following a look back to the air crash that brought tragedy to Manchester United in 1958, shows the teenager going to the club and soon making his mark. But the fact is that after great triumphs Best's world fell apart when he became an early victim of celebrity culture. This makes for a documentary that is effective viewing even for those whose interest in sport is nil. In that respect it makes for a neat companion piece to the recent Crash & Burn featuring the racing driver Tommy Byrne although the latter was far more successful in coming to terms with life when his sporting days came to an end.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Angie Best.

 

Dir Daniel Gordon, Pro Trevor Birney, Brendan J. Byrne, John Battsek and Deirdre Fenton, Screenplay Peter Ettedgui, Ph Michael Timney and Danny Rohrer, Ed Andy R. Worboys, Music Tim Atack.

 

BBC/ESPN Films/Northern Ireland Screen/Fine Point Films-Dogwoof.
92 mins. UK/Canada/USA. 2016. Rel: 24 February 2017. Cert. 12A.