Best (George Best: All By Himself)
- Eddie Harrison
- 20 February 2017
Occasionally enlightening but somewhat incomplete documentary about the rise and fall of the titular footballer
The rise and fall of footballer George Best has been the subject of several features, including Mary McGuckian's 2000 biopic and the fascinating German film Football As Never Before, filmed in 1970, during which the camera simply followed his performance on the field for the full 90-minutes. A quote from Best near the end of Daniel Gordon's documentary indicates that he wanted to be remembered for his flair on the pitch rather than his lifestyle choices, but the turbulent story presented here inevitably becomes a cautionary rather than celebratory tale.
Gordon adroitly frames Best's rise to fame in the context of the 1958 Munich air disaster (which occurred three years before he was brought to Manchester United as a youth), and the desire of Manchester United and manager Matt Busby to win the European Cup. Best's talent helped his team to the promised land, but anecdotal evidence suggests that immediately after his greatest achievement a despondent Best became convinced that he'd peaked too early, and Gordon chronicles how the player's wayward temperament caused his career to flat-line.
A collaboration between Northern Ireland Screen, the BBC and ESPN among others, Gordon's film leans on too many talking heads saying too little, but the archive footage is often enlightening, particularly when documenting his lesser-known career in the American soccer leagues. An incomplete selection of lovers, agents and colleagues shake their heads and wonder what might have been, but the interviews with Best himself provide few insights as to the personal demons that he sought to soothe with alcohol.
The extended tribute to Best featured in T2 Trainspotting means that this documentary is well-timed to catch public interest. The footballer will ultimately be remembered as a prodigious but wasted talent, but Gordon's failure to garner enough relevant or frank interviews means his film doesn't have the detail to constitute a definitive guide to the turmoil Best inflicted on himself, and on others around him.
Selected release from Fri 24 Feb.