The review is of the BluRay DVD which is on sale on Amazon for £12.99
The film’s producers have done a wonderful job in getting The Sun to declare Being AP ‘Enthralling’ and ‘Gripping’: it’s neither.
The ninety-nine-minute movie covers a year in the life of Anthony Peter McCoy as he pursues his 20th consecutive NH Jockeys’ Championship title. AP’s wife, Chanelle, engineers a potentially wonderful, unexpected twist halfway through when finally persuading her husband to retire at the end of the season. Unfortunately, director, Anthony Wonke could do little with this gift, and perhaps nobody could have.
Getting the most successful NH jockey in history to agree to have the cameras follow him for a year must have seemed a wonderful coup for the film’s backers. But in concentrating so heavily on the dedication that has brought such success, the makers manage to kill the drama, for what AP’s life boils down to is this: get up early, get in a car, go to the races. ride horses, come home, watch racing, go to bed, get up early, get in a car…
There is more. There has to be more. He’s a quick-witted man, a kind man, who visits sick children in hospital, who attends parties, who has a caring mother and father and siblings, a strong and dedicated wife, and two young children. The way he has lived his life has affected countless people, yet we hear from so few of them.
Dave Roberts, his agent appears a few times and we watch him at dinner with AP and Chanelle. Dave is there on the last day to walk in with AP before the great man dismounts for the final time. But we don’t get to hear in any detail what Roberts thinks of him. AP’s parents feature only fleetingly. We learn nothing about his early life. There are numerous ‘voices off’, which are never identified.
We see AP being examined by doctors. He talks then of his injuries. The doctors offer no insights. A masseuse/physio attends him at home and the major question of interest from her is ‘have you been colouring your hair?’.
The theme of the film is set from the start, and dominates throughout. AP believes he can ride 300 winners in the season. Cameras follow him from track to track, and a graphic shows his progress. Then a big injury punctures not only his lung, but his chances of making the 300. A busted collarbone hangs creakily over the damaged lung (neither stopped him riding that day, something of an embarrassment for the BHA’s medical procedures, I’d have thought). It’s a devastating blow for him. He says so in different ways.
At one point, he touches his collarbone and says, (I paraphrase) “I feel like bashing this off the wall again and again to punish it for stopping me riding three-hundred winners. It’s this that’s weak, not me!”
Now, I thought, surely they will wheel on a psychologist or two. AP has effectively been talking, with serious intent, about self-harming. He might not have seen it that way, nor might others, but those who self harm often do so in an effort to punish what is they see as their torturer, to rid themselves of it.
At another point AP says, “Twenty titles and four-thousand winners will take some beating. Nobody will do it for a while. I’ll probably be dead by then and at least I won’t have to worry about it.”
Why were these moments allowed to pass unquestioned? What is it that drives a human being to such excess? Fear. Fear. We heard that mentioned a few times. Fear of no longer being champ. Fear of a record being attainable by someone other than McCoy.
What sparked this fear? How was it fed, and who did the feeding. And why? Was it a fear he would have liked to be rid of? If not, why not?
This was a wonderful opportunity to analyse a man with a rare terror, a terror that fuelled an ambition that overcame fierce pain again and again and again (aside from the overhot baths, the decades of starvation, the family arguments).
That opportunity was allowed to canter past like so many of the slowmo shots in this film. And it suffered in this department too. Perhaps permission to use some Channel 4 footage or even their camera positions was never sought. Maybe it was refused. But the remoteness of the racetrack coverage, even in the changing room, added to the overall impression that the film was being made, if not surreptitiously, then with a level of objectivity bordering on disinterest.
And I found the background music intrusive much of the time, and inappropriate. But that’s a minor flaw in a major portrait that never quite comes into proper focus.
Whether anyone else could have made a better job of it, who knows. There might have been restrictions on the producers that have not been made public.
So, racing fans will enjoy it at some level, but I suspect the overall feeling will be one of disappointment. Gripping it ain’t. Nor is it enthralling. In a way, it was sad. Not sentimental weepy movie sad, it just left me feeling sorry for AP. Many will reserve their sympathy for those around him and his admitted selfishness, but I felt for him in the way I would for a lost child, one who will never find his way home.
Warned Off is free just now as an eBook. It’s a mystery thriller set in the world of National Hunt racing and has over 100 five-star reviews on Amazon UK. You can download it for your kindle here, and for other devices here.