We take a look at this investigation into the acclaimed footballer’s stardom…
In this docudrama, Spaniard Álex de la Iglesia explores the question, “What makes Lionel Messi the greatest [football] player in the world?”. If you question that assumption then, basically, tough luck for you, as it is a foundational assumption for this interesting, though slight, exploration of sporting greatness.
In a restaurant, several series of people assemble – relatives of Messi, friends, colleagues, admirers, even critics – and just talk. There is, of course, an artificiality to this conceit, as de la Iglesia obviously put some effort into assembling, stimulating, and filming these people, but the way it comes across is commendable for its remarkable naturalism. As his subjects reminisce and debate, he intersperses the usual sort of documentary evidence; there are photographs, where available there are home videos, and of course there is much footage of Messi on the pitch. There are also reconstructions, where deemed necessary by the director, utilising child actors bearing a remarkable resemblance to the real Messi. About the only thing conspicuous by its absence is any significant input from the man himself.
Reversing the trend of intimate portraits such as Asif Kapadia’s Senna (on F1 driver Ayrton Senna) and Amy (on singer Amy Winehouse), and Anthony Wonke’s Kapadia-produced Ronaldo (on Messi rival Cristiano Ronaldo), de la Iglesia’s focus is entirely on the legend, showing next to no interest in the man himself. The approach is, in its way, admirable, neatly sidestepping the tabloidy feel that can mar celebrity documentaries in favour of a more measured, almost philosophical work. With that said, however, the approach requires that significant work goes into answering questions about fame and the nature of greatness, in order for the picture work. These are complex, interesting questions, but the viewer never really feels assured that we are actually seeing progress made on answering them, as opposed to just watching idle, though entertaining, flapjawing. Messi emerges as the My Dinner with Andre of sporting documentaries, though it is shorter and significantly more modest in its ambitions.
Messi is released on DVD from the 25th July, will you be picking up a copy? Let us know in the comment box below!