In reviewing ‘Life of Ryan: Caretaker Manager’, Fikri Jermadi starts with an apology.
I’m sorry, I can’t help myself. I should have exercised some restraint in this matter, but when it comes to something like this, I guess you could say I have very little patience to actually wait for what’s coming next.
I highly doubt you could guess what it is I am banging on about, so I’ll just cut to the chase: in the middle of having watched a lot of films I’ve yet to review, I’ve decided to slot in another one just for fun. Writing the review for ‘Class of 92’, I chanced upon the fact that one of the co-directors, Gabe Turner, took it upon himself to direct a straight-to-TV effort called ‘Life of Ryan’.
The title itself could have been anything, but considering the content and context of his previous productions, I correctly guessed that it was a documentary following the last days of Ryan Giggs as a player and manager of Manchester United.
Out of all the footballers I’ve seen in my lifetime, Ryan Giggs remains one of the few I truly respect. I feel a profound joy in watching one club men like Paolo Maldini, Tony Adams and Francesco Totti, while players like Javier Zanetti gets a special pass into the club simply because of the longevity and the amazing things he’s done by remaining loyal to that one club. Very few of them, however, even got close to what Ryan nearly managed for all but one of his seasons in professional football: he was at one club under the auspices of one single manager.
That kind of stuff means something to me, but it’s already a bonus on to of the wonderful memories he’s given me. To my eye, he remains one of the greatest talents of his generation. Many have considered whether he is truly that great, given how he had never tested himself outside of his comfort zone. They suggested that an ability to adapt to other countries, teams and managers truly show the player’s class. While this is undoubtedly true, I find it difficult to accept that’s the only way to the top. In any case, Ryan didn’t need to leave, given how Manchester United have been lucky enough to provide for his professional needs in every way.
The documentary is almost like a fly on the wall film that follows Ryan almost every step of the way. We see him in his office, as the United manager for the first time, and it is not difficult to see how much all this means to him. He details the items on his desk, such as training schedules and data mined from previous matches for further analysis. They’re all very big shoes to fill (yes, even the ones left behind by the very capable David Moyes, who remains a fine manager in his own right).
Feeling slightly overwhelmed by the experience, like a lot of us when confronted with the unknown, he falls back into the known, and called up Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes to assist him and Phil Neville (who’s already installed as one of the coaches) in managing the team. The presence of the camera is always acknowledged, so perhaps that fly on the wall is a really big fly that’s difficult to ignore. In some cases, that could have hindered with the story being presented, as the subject matters become aware that the camera and red light is there.
However, I fail to truly detect moments I consider to be somewhat doctored. We do get a scene of him visiting his mother with his children, which does seem a bit odd in some ways. On the one hand…yes, it provides a more personal context against which the professional challenges could be played out. On the other, it just felt a little less real in relation to the other scenes. You may or may not notice this discrepancy from one scene to the next. I don’t know whether I’m imagining things, but this uneven treatment of tone throughout the film jarred with me at times.
Once again, help from the outside is sought in eulogising Ryan the player. The usual suspects such as Paul Scholes, Phil Neville and even David Beckham makes an appearance; in an upgrade of sorts from ‘Class of 92’, Sir Alex Ferguson turned up as a part of a series of talking heads. More interestingly, though, Diego Maradona had the chance to speak nicely about Giggs (the part about left footed players having greater balance is an interesting note; Giggs is, at least naturally, a part of the same school as Angel Di Maria and Arjen Robben).
Eric Cantona, the great man himself, contributed some nice words, but it appears as if he had not even changed clothes from the previous documentary. One suspects that an amazing amount of planning and time management had gone into the making of these films, and it could be that the sit down interview with that one person was successfully sourced into a number of different films as discussed. In which case, that’s really smart filmmaking.
Visually, the film also provides for much of the same tone and editing pace from ‘Class of 92’. It is a slick and neat production, dovetailing neatly with the objectives of the day as an hour-long documentary film to be screened on ITV. Previously, I had written of how ‘The Ref’ had suffered from any sense of drama in the matches portrayed, and given the abject nature of United’s season gone by, there was little to play for by the season’s end; the Europa League would have been nice, but that is predictably small beer for someone like Ryan. Of course, he wouldn’t come out and say that out loud, but I suspect that people like him are only interested in challenging for the top. Anything less, and there’s probably little different from 5th place to the upper echelons of the lower table.
Also, there is an unerring bias towards Manchester United. I wonder whether Gabe Turner has a contract to produce a series of films under their banner. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we were supposed to have a definite account of David Moyes first season in charge, had he seen the season out.
All in all, this is a fine enough experience for those already a part of the choir. If I am being uncharitable, I’d describe this as little more than a puff piece, glossing over anything particularly critical (scenes of Ryan Giggs at home with his family reminded me how close he came to losing all that). Mentions of David Moyes were also kept to a minimum, from what I can see, so if you expect anything more than that, I fear you’ll be disappointed.
Then again, there are still plenty of people who pay good money to watch a Michael Bay film, and criticised the film when they got what they paid for.
It’s a funny old world.
Fikri will certainly miss Ryan the player. Oh, what a player.
Featured image credit: London Evening Standard