A mostly successful portrait of the Norther Irish footballer explores his explosive sporting highs and dark personal lows.
Hailing from Belfast, he crossed the Irish sea and was playing for Matt Busby‘s Manchester United by the age of 17.
Then began a dizzy spell of sumptuous football: an FA Cup win for the club in 1963, two First Division titles in 1965 and 1967 either side of a famous performance in 1966 away to Lisbon’s Benfica, and then a dramatic European Cup win in 1968, again against the aforementioned Portuguese powerhouse.
Ironically, this win marked a gradual decline for both club and player as United did not win a league title for another 25 years and would only regain the European Cup in 1999.
As for Best, he would endure a shattering descent into depression and alcoholism, with parts of the British press painting him into a corner as a celebrity party animal.
He later said: “The whole thing became a total nightmare”
Although director Daniel Gordon adopts a mostly chronological approach, he doesn’t shy away from the pain of his private life that continued to dog him as he became a wandering footballer for hire in the USA and around the world during the 1970s and 80s.
Among a raft of smoothly edited archive footage, there are some key interviews woven throughout: a sad lament from close United teammate Paddy Crerand, plus testimony from former wives Angie and Alex, who reveal the tumult of living with Best.
The film doesn’t really go far enough in exploring the full extent of the physical and mental abuse he reportedly inflicted on them, but still deserves praise for getting them in front of the camera to broach the subject.
At the time of his death in 2005, Best was a forlorn figure who had undergone a liver transplant and yet still continued to drink.
One might have thought there was not much more to say about George Best. But for veteran observers or newcomers to his life and career, this is a solid place to start.