Spoiler: he dies – but then you knew that anyway. This is the challenge faced by anyone trying to tell the story of Bobby Moore – West Ham, 1966, the wilderness years, the tragic early death. People know that, don’t they? But as someone who knew Moore personally and who has managed to recruit so many others in a similar position, Matthew Lorenzo is better qualified than most to go that bit further in telling Moore’s story, and in his film Bo66y, he succeeds. Spectacularly
For such a public figure, Moore lived behind a carefully constructed forcefield of privacy, only ever letting down his guard to those very closest to him – and as the film features both his wives and his daughter, it is hard to see how it can get any closer than that. Perhaps all too appropriately for the story of someone who crammed so much into such a short life, at times, it feels like the film should be longer. It pitches straight into the 1966 World Cup final before jumping back and forth telling the story of Moore’s journey there, including the 1962 World Cup, his two trophies with West Ham, and his first hushed-up battle with cancer, just before the birth of his daughter, mixing colour and black and white footage to avoid any plodding predictability of structure.
The explosion of ’66 propels Moore to new heights in every aspect of his life, but as the team’s figurehead, when England’s fortunes dip in subsequent years, it is him as the captain who carries the can.
What is genuinely shocking is the speed and totality of how casually English football discarded the most precious resource it has ever had; already a life-long insomniac and compulsive worrier (hidden beneath his veneer of calmness, of course), Moore’s anxiety was magnified hugely when Watford changed their mind at the last minute about giving him the manager’s job, appointing future England coach Graham Taylor instead. After that came rejection after humiliating rejection.
Moore’s first wife Tina, with him through all the glory days, suggests this played a role in the break-up of their marriage, at which point, enter Stephanie, the second Mrs Moore, who shared an all-too-brief happy time with him before nursing him through his final agonising illness. The tale of Moore’s latter years, scraping a living as a local radio summariser, could make for depressing viewing, but anecdotes from Jonathan Pearce and Paul Gascoigne about their dealings with him provide moments of happiness, humour and insight into the man’s character. With the end in sight, Moore finally went public about his illness, but fortunately for his
memory, did so out of public vision; the only picture of him in the final stages is a grainy, long-range shot in the commentary box on his final Wembley match, watching England managed by – of all people – Graham Taylor. Fears of a media feeding frenzy denied him one last visit to West Ham, but he had time to say his final, moving farewells to friends – most poignantly, to Tina. Just like the blessed absence of photos of him in decline mean his enduring image is happy, healthy and golden haired, his character too remains wonderfully classy until the very end comes.
Lorenzo’s handling of the story makes it much more than just a life of two halves – it is more a film of four quarters, as the young Moore flies up like a firework, only to then come down like the stick, before the tragedy of his illness and then his posthumous legend. The collection of family and associates assembled provide so many sides to his character it is hard to see what additions could have brought his personality to life any more, and they ensure that the tale is told in an involving way, despite so many aspects of the story being so well known
By the end viewers will feel thrilled, inspired, dejected, moved – and inspired again, because despite the inescapably sad conclusion of Moore’s life, Bo66y shows just how high its high points were. The choice of music, particularly the two pieces at the end, is excellent; the sentiment of Noel Gallagher’s AKA What A Life could almost have been written for Moore, and the Small Faces’ Tin Soldier is the perfect finale. What A Life indeed. Glorious, tragic and inspiring all at once. Bo66y leaves you feeling pumped up and wanting to do something significant with your own life. BBM