Tony McCoy was Champion Jockey for 20 consecutive seasons, a dominance of his field that few sportsmen achieve, and this film records his final season.
Beginning in 2014 McCoy is looking to retain his position as Champion Jockey in the upcoming season, but has also another target in mind. Buoyed by passing the 4,000 mark for career winners, he is set on setting a new unbeatable record: riding 300 winners in a single season. The key to this is McCoy’s phenomenal work-rate. As director Anthony Wonke trails him the length and breadth of Britain we see a man jumping into helicopters to fly from racecourse to racecourse to make tight schedules to ride another horse on a long summer’s day. McCoy’s willingness to drive hundreds of miles to ride a horse and then return home the same distance enables him to outpace his rivals for the title. But his driven nature is his own worst enemy, because when things fall apart he falls apart too…
McCoy seems very much cast in the mould of Roy Keane; a bundle of neuroses held together by implacable desire to win. McCoy is powered by a tremendous fear of not being champion jockey. He’s always afraid that his records will be broken, that people will think he’s losing his edge, there’s very little joy in his achievements. When he’s injured he wants to smash his shoulder into a wall for letting him down; he was ready to keep going, a stupid body part is preventing him. His wife mutters that she’s on ‘suicide watch’ in accompanying him on a Caribbean holiday to allow the sun help his body heal. Given that McCoy tells he’s going to retire at the end of the season to see what it feels like to say it, and feels sick, she’s not really kidding.
Being AP is beautifully photographed by documentary veterans Tom Elliott, Andrew Thompson, and Neil Harvey (who was responsible for the sweeping shots in Prof. Robert Bartlett’s BBC documentary The Normans). The horse-racing sequences are given a truly cinematic gloss, while McCoy’s litany of painful injuries make for mordant comedy with his physio (“It’d be so much easier if they didn’t always step on you” “Well, don’t fall off then”) as well as adding a true frisson of peril to the racing footage whenever a jockey comes tumbling off at a jump. But some scenes with his wife Chanelle unleash all sorts of questions. How exactly did the sound recordists Tim Watts and Andrew Yarme get such intimate scenes as the dinner conversation outdoors at a pub? Are we eavesdropping via a long-lens or, worse, being invited to a staged ambush?
Throughout the film McCoy’s Irish wife is nagging him to retire, and he doesn’t want to. Once you start asking questions about ethical methods you hit a larger humdinger: was this pitched as a movie about McCoy’s final season, and did his wife then have to drag him kicking and screaming into that narrative? There is actually something approaching a three act structure in this movie as McCoy sets out to ride 300 winners, closes in on the target, only to face obstacles, and get what he needed not what he thought he wanted. That Hollywood arc is actually why the film feels about 20 minutes too long, while the score by Andrew Phillips is eerily reminiscent of Philip Glass’s concerto for saxophone quartet and orchestra.
Being AP looks fantastic, and offers some fascinating insights, but not true epiphanies.
Being AP is in cinemas now. Check out the trailer below.
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Featured Image Credit: TIFF.net