With Barcelona on the brink, achieving the seemingly impossible feat of losing four of their last five matches, after what had been an almost perfect season since their defeat against Sevilla in October 2015, I took time out to rehash some of that Lionel Messi magic. The documentary about the player seemed like a healthy place to withdraw to.
That’s because Messi’s Barcelona has the capacity to transform one’s beliefs regarding football. With the Argentine at its centre, Rijkard’s, Guardiola’s, Villanova’s and Enrique’s teams have won all they could, but Barcelona stood out through the way in which it scintillated when Messi was playing his best. Which was most of the time, really.
De la Iglesia’s documentary does not do him justice. Set in between highlights reels, flashback reconstructions and dull restaurant conversations, it feels like someone throwing as many ideas and emotions at you as possible, in the hope of playing a percentage game. The problem lies in the film’s lack of focus and depth. Seemingly countless people are interviewed, sourced from Messi’s childhood friends and teachers, the media, through to his current teammates or past coaches – a mixture bordering on the desperate, trying to fill the void of purpose. Yet, the material feels so slight and provides so little insight into who the man really is, that it tells little beyond a linear story. A story most people who follow Messi would know by now – the growth hormones, the challenges faced from living far from home at such an early age, the endless Maradona comparisons.
Nothing ever seems to go beyond the first layer of complexity. Five minutes or so are dedicated to the relationship Messi has to fans of the national team, there’s a cursory mentioning of the tax fraud accusations, and the difficult, injury-plagued 2013-14 season is not brought up at all. As an ode to his footballing genius, there’s something to grab a hold of here, but it barely manages to convey the beauty and poetry of what Messi achieves on a football pitch.
What’s worse is that a much better movie could have come about, even relying on the limited input available. Why, if you have the likes of Pique, Mascherano, Iniesta or the former Argentine manager Alejandro Sabella, would you spend such a huge chunk of your time with flat memories of friends who are apparently no longer a part of Messi’s life? The most watchable moments are those when Menotti or Cruyff discuss the wider importance of Messi to Barcelona, his tactical importance in relation to his technical abilities, but they are few and far between.
Unfortunately, the experience of de la Iglesia’s documentary is too bland to matter and too emotionally manipulative to elicit actual feelings.
Originally posted on imdb.