BEST (UK/12A/90mins)
Directed by Daniel Gordon
THE PLOT:
Daniel Gordon’s documentary chronicles legendary footballer George Best’s rise to fame, from being a homesick teenager who skipped out on his trial for Manchester United, through to his move to the US to play for teams such as the LA Aztecs. Best also looks at the obsessions that defined Best’s life; football and excess.
THE VERDICT: There have been many films about the life and times of football’s most legendary and tragic player, George Best, but Daniel Gordon’s new documentary tells the story not only through the eyes of George Best himself, but those around him, from former teammates and agents to friends, lovers and wives.
The film opens with Angie Best, George’s first wife, telling the story of driving to the doctor for a check up on her newborn son – Calum. Angie saw a man walking down the centre of the road in the rain, and took pity on the person she believed to be homeless and destitute. It was only as the car passed him that Angie realised the man she saw was her husband, George Best. She kept driving. This story bookends the film, and is a touchstone in the tale of fame and tragedy that was the life of George Best.
Director Daniel Gordon has tracked down friends and family for this new documentary, including Angie Best, Alex Best – George’s second wife – Ani Rinchen Khandro (formerly Jackie Glass), former Manchester United Manager Sir Matt Busby, Man City player Mike Summerbee, journalist Hugh McIlvanney, Man United player Harry Gregg, agent Bill Mc Murdo and Roy Hudson from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, to name but a few. The film is made up of a combination of archive footage that allows the late George Best to speak for himself, as well as new interviews with those who knew him. What emerges is a story of a talented – some might say genius – player, who tragically did not have the staying power and strength to avoid the obsession with alcohol that brought him down.
The interviews in the film bring it to life, and it is clear that Best touched everyone he knew to varying degrees. Although almost the entire world knows what befell the talented football player from Northern Ireland, but as the story unfolds on screen it becomes clear that Best struggled to come to terms with being the first true celebrity footballer, as well as inner demons he never managed to shake.
Daniel Gordon focuses squarely on the football career of George Best, but obviously has to address the issue of his descent into alcoholism. There are mentions of “demons” plaguing Best, but this is not the film to try to uncover just what those demons were. This is a Shakespearean tragedy played out on screen and, for those of us too young to remember George Best as anything but someone who used to be someone, seeing the footage of Best playing the game he loved is exhilarating.
In all, ‘Best’ is a strong documentary and tries to be an honest look at the career of George Best. There are many questions left unanswered throughout the film, and although it seems clear that this is because there are simply no answers to be had, the impulse to show Best at his um… best and skip the sensationalism that came after his career as a player ended leaves the film feeling slightly unfinished. That said, there is a lot to learn and love in ‘Best’, and it is as fitting a tribute to the player as possible.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Even though he died in 2005, George Best’s legacy lives on – the very stuff of footballing legends. George Best: All By Himself is a reflective documentary on the career and personal life of the Belfast footballer, as told through his own voice and the people who knew him.

    A very nice lad from Belfast is how George Best was described by his teammates at Manchester United. In the wake of the Munich Air Disaster in 1958, which saw a large part of Matt Busby’s ‘babes’ wiped out in one single stroke, George Best joined Man Utd and quickly proved his talent on the pitch, ducking in and out of opposition players and getting the ball into the back of the net – most famously at the European Cup final with Benfica where he scored the winning goal in injury time. He became feted on and off the pitch, gradually establishing the idea of a footballer being a rockstar personality and a brand name – decades before David Beckham. With success came fame and with fame came attention from women. Tired with the British press, he left for America to live a mostly unknown life. In later years, his downfall came with his daily reliance on alcohol – which would lead to his untimely death at the age of 59. A once great star dimmed but never faded away…

    Dubbed the greatest footballer in the world by no less than Pele, George Best has been the subject of documentaries and films before. What Daniel Gordon does in this film though is take a career and personal life overview of the man himself with warm contributions from teammates, football commentators, friends, past lovers and ex-wives. For a man who lived larger than life, it packs a lot into its tight 92 minutes and is wholly satisfying as a result. This is a rounded, honest view of Best, attributing his downfall to himself, his alcoholism and the pressure of fame. As Dr. Eldon Tyrell says in Blade Runner – ‘the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long’. That’s very true of Best – a man who was sharply focused and incredibly talented on the pitch… but who had an uneasy love-hate relationship with the media and its interest in his personal life.

    Rather than having talking heads looking just off camera to the interviewer, Gordon adopts Errol Morris’ Interrotron technique with the interviewees talking directly to the audience. It gives a more personal feel to Best’s story as it unfolds. The interviewees have their own individual perspective on the man himself, but also agree that he was on self-destruct like so many highly talented people in the public eye. Of particular interest is the perspective from the former lovers and ex-wives who admit he could be a demon when drink took over. A well-assembled and edited batch of archival footage of Best on and off the pitch fills out Best’s life in colourful and sometimes amusing ways. There’s also a sense of sadness at how messy his life became until his death, whereupon he took on the status of a football legend. A fascinating and enigmatic character, George Best is well served by this tragi-nostalgic documentary. Even those who aren’t that interested in football like this reviewer will find it an engaging watch. ****