If you are a film critic and are used to watching a variety of films, then there are not so many problems. But one of the difficulties I face personally is stumbling over movies and not being able to comment on them on a personal level. I try to action this, and sometimes I win. But there are times when I just surrender to what the movie feels like to me.
Bradley Jackson’s film “Face to Face with Nolan” is a very good documentary. It’s beautifully filmed and expertly edited to make the viewer part of an experience that’s hard to frame. Many of us have seen how Nolan served Ryan. On TV or live at the baseball park. And Jackson’s film lets everyone be there. Decades will pass, and films like him will be a great opportunity to experience events that happen once in a lifetime.
However, the meeting with Nolan also seems to be personal. At least for me. When I started to watch it, I began to remember my father’s gaze on the TV screen, his wide-open eyes studying the plays, and his hands nervously moving everything around on the table. I messaged him and asked about Nolan Ryan. It turned into the longest conversation we’ve had in a long time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jackson dedicates his beautiful work to his father. I think that the artists owe a lot to what shaped them and made them perform in a special way. I say thank you to him. Thank you for making a film about a man who is still able to unite us.
And such a wonderful movie. Meeting Nolan is a fantastic description of what Nolan Ryan has become. It is a biographical documentary in which one does not cling to unnecessary details. Only important facts are important. From Nolan’s former relationship with his wife Ruth to his current status as a humble grandfather who proudly watches his family at everyday events and smiles warmly. Director Bradley Jackson resolutely exploits access to the Ryan clan to make the legend more tangible. It is a portrait of the man behind legendary deeds in sports.
This does not mean that Jackson is not immersed in Ryan’s career and important events, whether they are harmful to his image or useful for his legacy. After all, Nolan Ryan is an ordinary player who achieved what the gods expected. Apart from records, achievements, actions and swinging a hat, there was a man who challenged physics in every way (the fact that he got better with age is simply overwhelming). And he won. A few times. The experience with Nolan is a celebration of this hero, but also a materialization of the presence that made every player fear Ryan when he was on the hill. Fortunately, Jackson remains within the tonal limits that make the film touching and pleasant. It never gets embarrassing, even if some players have not been so “friendly” during their careers.
When it comes to sports documentaries, it is expected that the formula will not change much. It should not be. This requires the use of the script and the vision of a director who wants to make the greatest pay of all. There is no doubt about that. You may notice that Jackson really wants to pay to the greatest pitcher of all time.
With the help of a great film crew (the Ryan family is active), Jackson uses the testimonies of the big stars, the ex-president, the Nolan family and the player himself. He organizes an exciting journey through the greatest moments of the pitcher and those that are not so great. Of course, so many cult actors in one film are exciting, but their words help the viewer to deconstruct the image of a little literal man who performs actions greater than the real ones.
Documentaries that make the audience think about something personal are not very common today. Much less when it comes to sports documents. Perhaps in this matter I am very subjective, but, as I mentioned above, sometimes you just can not help but surrender to this experience. A meeting with Nolan brought me back to my childhood in Venezuela, on a Saturday morning with Juan Vene and his show “Best of the Week”. Nothing in our time has allowed me to do this.
“Face to Face with Nolan” is an extraordinary documentary about a sports legend that made me think about my own father and our relationship with baseball. This allowed me to relive the golden moment of time. So why not create a movie of this kind with this effect?