Film Review: McEnroe

John McEnroe looking out

Tennis had long been a very reserved, genteel and upper-class sport, but in the 1970s things began to change. As the ‘Open Era’ began to hit its stride, with characters like Connors, McEnroe, Ashe, Borg, Gerulaitis and Vilas ensuring its popularity, it was suddenly awash with money. Whilst the overall standard was not a patch on today’s highly paid athletes, it was a period which produced great rivalries and so much controversy.

Much of which came courtesy of John McEnroe, a great talent but also seemingly a man incapable of controlling his temper. He split opinion down the middle, becoming the subject of many debates and discussions. However, he still holds the record for the most titles and remains one of the all-time greats. The passion and obsession which drove him to great heights also threatened to tear him apart. McEnroe tells his story.

Most sports documentaries are little more than biographical tributes, chronologically running through the subject’s life and career, with talking heads there to move the story on and furnish praise. McEnroe is a very different beast. Whilst Barney Douglas’ film charts the highs and lows, it does so from the point of view of context. It will be no surprise to learn that McEnroe is his own greatest critic. This perfectionism almost destroyed him and he’s a man still trying to make amends. It’s a fascinating insight into the story behind the headlines.

McEnroe is out in UK and Irish cinemas from 15 July.

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