Best: His Mother’s Son, BBC 2

Did we like it?
Following the parallel lives of legendary footballer George Best and his mother, Anne – this shone a light at the distinctly unglamorous effect alcoholism had on their lives. However, the film was unbalanced as a superb central performance by Michelle Fairley towered over the performance of Tom Payne, who was unconvincing as George. Also, too many of the scenes felt contrived – something that the filmmakers alluded to with the pre-credits title cards.

What was good about it?
• Michelle Fairley as Anne Best was superb in the way she built the cloying, suffocating pressure of being George Best’s mother. From the constant presence of reporters and photographers outside the front door to the constant ringing of the telephone from someone looking for a story, we soon realised that Anne Best’s identity was being stripped away as she was turned from a person in her own right, to being purely defined as the mother of a footballing hero. And it is the relief from this pressure that alcohol gives her that starts her on the slippery slope.
• With trainee footballers not earning the sort of money that they do these days, Anne still lived in the same terraced house, so couldn’t ostracise herself from unwelcome attention. This was beautifully captured in the scene where some moron mocks her on the bus claiming she is affecting airs and graces, and when she gets up to leave, asks if he can have George’s autograph.
• The futility of Dickie Best (the excellent Lorcan Cranitch) going into his nearest off-licence and demanding they refuse to serve his wife. Keen to avoid a scene, the assistant agrees, but points out, “There’s plenty of off-licences in Belfast, Mr Best. Are you going to go into every one?”
• During Anne and Dickie’s 25th Wedding Anniversary party, as she watches George getting increasingly legless, Anne is hit by the crushing realisation that he is following exactly the same path that she has followed.
• Perhaps the strongest scenes came right at the end of the film. Following the titles that inform us that Anne continued drinking until she died of an alcohol-related illness at 54, just 10 years after her first drink, we are shown a 30 second clip of Michael Parkinson interviewing George some time in the 1990’s. Up until that point, the documentary clips of George had never shown his face – showing clips from behind, or where his features were obscured. Our sole image was of the fresh-faced Tom Payne. Suddenly, we were confronted by the dissolute, haunted features of a 30 year alcoholic, and as Parkinson concluded the interview, Best momentarily glanced at the camera. The pain and despair in that single brief glance made for a heartbreaking ending.

What was bad about it?
• Whilst clearly a good-looking guy, Tom Payne just seemed too ‘clean’ to convince as George. He just didn’t nail the charisma.

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