Film Review – John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection

Consensus has it that the golden era of men’s tennis began with the emergence of Roger Federer around the middle of last decade. Whilst the athleticism and technical ability of Nadal, Murray and Djokovic and the Swiss is beyond doubt, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the sport has lost something in its constant struggle for perfection. I’d argue that it was the 1980s when tennis reached its peak. The likes of Borg, Connors and McEnroe were both household names and huge celebrities. The latter is the subject of Julien Faraut’s new documentary.

John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection focuses on the American’s attempt to win the French Open at Roland Garros in 1984. Narrated by Mathieu Amalric, Faraut uses a wealth of 16mm archive footage to capture a legend in action. From the artistry and athleticism of a sportsman at the height of his powers to the drama and petulance conjured up by his turbulent personality.

Unlike any sports documentary you’ve ever seen before, John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection feels like a mix of contemplative experimental film-making and philosophical treatise. All wrapped up in a beautifully crafted, cleverly edited and stealthfully brilliant little package. It all adds up to a lively and thoughtful portrait of a highly driven and supremely talented athlete.

John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection is out in cinemas from 24 May.

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