They say a good documentary should entertain, engross and inform – regardless of whether the viewer has any sort of pre-installed interest in the subject. So, a heavy metal documentary should be able to be enjoyed by the most peaceful folkie, and a film about religion should entertain even the most stubborn atheist. But the area in which this idea is lost on a lot of people is with sporting documentaries. “I don’t like race cars, why would I enjoy ‘Senna’?” I remember hearing everywhere back in 2010. Well, I don’t like football. Never have. Never will. But still, I just watched Bobby, which is out now on DVD & Blu-ray.
Bobby, not to be confused with the 2006 film of the same name, is a celebratory study of the iconic footballer Bobby Moore. Moore captained West Ham United for more than 10 years, but most famously captained the England team to victory in the 1966 World Cup – 50 years ago this year. He’s widely regarded as one of the finest players of all time. But who was Bobby? What led him from his childhood in war-torn England to that famous photo, holding the World Cup above his head as his team lift him? And what did he do after? Like any documentary on a singular subject, there is a lot more to this man than meets the eye.
Bobby’s style may not be hugely innovative or new, but it works. Yes, the usual ‘talking heads’ interviews take a lot of the film’s 90 minute runtime, but archive footage dominates here – the majority of which has been polished up pretty damn fine. Presented in a cinematic widescreen aspect ratio, Bobby often doesn’t feel like a documentary. This aspect ratio, along with a superbly tense score, make the match footage all the more dramatic and engrossing. Even though we know how these games went, these scenes are edge-of-your-seat stuff. The interviewees throughout are great – we get some vivid first-hand accounts from surviving team members, discussions of home life from Moore’s two wives, and Bobby’s legacy and impact from current players and contemporaries. We even hear briefly from Ray Winstone and, ugh, Russell Brand. I know, Brand is a West Ham fan, but does that really give him the right to talk in a Bobby Moore documentary? Hmmm.
Anyway, it says a lot about the power of the filmmaking when Bobby, a film about a sport I vehemently dislike, can move me to tears. But I guess that’s because Bobby is as much a film about a man as it is a film about the sport itself. While Bobby does focus strongly on Moore’s football career – of course, we get a very cinematic and detailed blow-by-blow account of that unforgettable 1966 win, among other iconic games – it doesn’t shy away from the darker times in the man’s life. In the years that followed the World Cup victory, Moore became an increasingly unstable and broken man. Insomnia, depression, bankruptcy and cruel rejection by the football establishment ripped Moore apart. When he passed away from cancer in 1993, his status was so reduced he was managing non-league clubs and commentating on local radio. This is the man who led England to their last World Cup win, 50 years ago. And he was thrown aside like garbage. Despicable.
But despite the incredibly emotional final act dealing with Moore’s cruelly forced insignificance and declining health, the poignant closing montage and end credits show that this isn’t a time for lamenting. Bobby is a celebration. Bobby wants to take an hour and a half – and it easily could’ve taken longer – to remind us how great this man was, and posthumously apologise for the treatment he received by his peers in his final years. His story of beating cancer at a young age to lift the World Cup is still inspiring today, while his attitude on-and-off pitch could be a lesson to not just footballers. He was a great man and a hero. He still is a legend. And as long as there’s still football, people will always remember the great Robert “Bobby” Moore.
Bobby is a poignant, funny and entertaining study of a true British icon – and even if you despise football, there is a lot to like here. 5/5.
Bobby at CeX
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