Personal Best Review

Film Still
  • Personal Best film still


This focus on athletes ahead of the London Olympics is a stylish piece of filmmaking, despite the lack of detail.

If you want to think twice about sprawling on the sofa while working your way through a box of Maltesers, this documentary should do the trick. Tracking the progress of a quartet of up-and-coming sprinters, director Sam Blair focusses on the athletes as they train for international recognition and, in the case of James Ellington and Jeanette Kwaykye, the London 2012 Olympics.

Artily executed shots of the stadium don't make up for the fact that, if juggling too many storylines was an Olympic sport, Blair would probably get a medal. It's not quite jumbled enough for gold, but certainly makes you a more worthwhile and insightful project is trapped within the material. Bronze?

The film would’ve gained focus had Blair chosen just James and Jeanette as his subjects. Not that sprint hurdler Richard Alleyne and 17 year-old 100 metre runner, Omardo Anson, are superfluous, but it's the run-up to the Olympics that most viewers will be interested in.

It's supposed to offer insight into the lives of four athletes, but there's a distinct lack of probing detail. How much do they train on a daily basis? How do their relationships suffer aside from the obligatory "Oh, he just loves running" musings by various parents? Blair shies away from anything too raw, preferring aesthetic shots and a plinky-plonky soundtrack instead of getting to the messy core of these human sprint-machines.

Lack of detail aside, though, it's a stylish piece of filmmaking. Relying on the races for bursts of adrenalin, the 100 metre sprints snap to real-time and highlight how hard these guys work for what is literally a matter of seconds.


Anything arty and independent about the run-up to the Olympics can't be a bad thing.



A slow, slightly confused pace but worth it for those seconds where you get to watch four people run really, really fast.


In Retrospect

If this were a 100 metre sprint, it'd go off with a bang, start ambling by the 50 metre mark, before finishing in near the back of the pack.

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