The evening before this show, I was telling a friend I was going to see a new film on Northern Ireland’s much loved Georgie Best at Movie House Cinemas.
“What can they show that people from here haven’t seen before?” she asked.
“Umm.. I don’t know……..’”I replied.
In Northern Ireland we are hungry for every nugget of information there is about OUR George. We soak up every little drop of information on him. And that’s how we see him, as belonging to us. It has been said that we can be a very protective lot. So, we went to the show hoping this wasn’t a rehash of old footage or sensational tabloid style film-making.
However, director Daniel Gordon (no relation to OUR Dan Gordon) has some extremely impressive films under his belt. So, as we settled down to watch, we felt relatively safe in the knowledge that this was going to be quality work. And how right we were.
In this writer’s humble opinion, George was the most naturally gifted soccer player the world has ever seen. He was mesmerising to watch – on or off the pitch. (According to my better half.) With hindsight, in his last radio interview, George could see at the end of the day, the magic in his life wasn’t the partying or the women. He was asked what he hoped people would remember him for and he said ‘As long they remember the football.’ This film depicted his story without any frills. And that was totally fine with us.
The facts are, his incredible highs were mirrored by, sometimes engulfed by, his incredible lows. Best was the first footballer superstar in English soccer, (the fifth Beatle!) joining Manchester United as a junior in 1961 aged just 15, he made his first ever team debut age 17, and won prestigious accolade of European Footballer of the Year, aged 22. During these years, his relationship with manager Matt Busby, who rebuilt his team from the ashes of the Munich air crash of 1958, is described as ‘like father and son’. However, ‘The glory years’ couldn’t last. The metaphorical car-crash followed – Pat Crerand one of the interviewees in the film said “It was downhill on a toboggan.”
This production had a wealth of archive, cleverly put alongside past interviews with George and would almost make the audience believe that George himself had put this show together. But maybe not. After all, it wasn’t all about the football. ‘Sympathetic, but honest’ was my viewing companions first comment as the show ended. We wholeheartedly believe George would approve even if it didn’t show the sun shining all the time. He did it all, both brilliant and destructive ‘All by himself’ – Go see it. You won’t regret it.
The film goes on general release on February 24. It was produced by Trevor Birney, John Battsek and Brendan J Byrne for Fine Point Films, Passion Pictures, VeryMuchSo Productions and ESPN Films, with support from Northern Ireland Screen and BBC Television.
Director: Daniel GordonScreenplay: Peter Ettedgui
Music composed by: Tim Atack
Producers: Trevor Birney, Brendan J. Byrne.
Cinematography: Michael Timney, Danny Rohrer