Tennis was on the agenda big time on opening night of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The selection was “Borg/McEnroe,” directed by Janus Metz, a dramatization of the famous 1980 Wimbledon court battle between Sweden’s Bjõrn Borg and America’s John McEnroe.
The film, which I am belatedly getting around to writing about, is really on two levels—the tennis matches and the portraits of the players themselves. Each actor is first rate, Sverrir Gudnason as Borg and Shia LaBeouf as McEnroe. The film, although over-long, has a generous helping of excitement. But it is plagued by a basic difficulty.
It is all personality and no real tennis. Yes, there is plenty of cleverly done editing of clips to give the impression of the match. How much better it would have been to see real clips of the actual match itself! But that would have been a documentary.
Such an approach would not have made it possible to dramatize the anxieties and lives of the two players, as the actors in the roles would not match those we see on the court. By not going back to the real match, the film could show the two stars going through some motions on the court to lend authenticity, but emoting in the reality-based drama.
As involving as the portrayals are, the more their skills are touted, the more I longed to see the real tennis combat. But it has to be said that the editing by Per Sandholdt and Per K. Kirkegaard is outstanding, as is the direction by Metz. The interweaving of the clips is extremely effective. LaBeouf often steals scenes with the bad-boy outbursts for which McEnroe was known.
As is the custom, the opening night screenings of the film were followed by a packed party in the TIFF Lighthouse building to celebrate the internationally popular event. Posted November 1, 2017.