Pole dis­po­si­tion

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

WIL­LIAMS ★★★★ Di­rected by Mor­gan Matthews. Fea­tur­ing Frank Wil­liams, Claire Wil­liams, Jackie Ste­wart, Nigel Mansell, Alan Jones, Pa­trick Head. Cert 15A, limited re­lease, 109mins Frank Wil­liams doesn’t “do emo­tion” we are told early and of­ten in this in­trigu­ing doc­u­men­tary portrait of the F1 ti­tan. In­deed, the high­est praise Wil­liams can think to be­stow upon his daugh­ter Claire, is that in com­mon with her late mother Ginny (Vir­ginia) she “doesn’t make a lot of fuss” and “gets things done”.

He has never read Ginny’s book about their mar­riage. With a nod to Clio Bernard’s

The Ar­bor, the tapes Ginny recorded ahead of pub­li­ca­tion are care­fully drama­tised with Emily Be­van in the role. These form the spine of Mor­gan Matthew’s film, as Frank, we quickly learn, not only “doesn’t do emo­tion”, he doesn’t do much that isn’t rac­ing, which he com­pares to “hav­ing a hard-on your whole life”.

Tellingly, his wife and chil­dren went on sum­mer hol­i­day to Mar­bella for 32 con­sec­u­tive years with­out him, and his best friend David Brodie de­scribes him as “to­tally ob­sessed with rac­ing to a ridicu­lous de­gree. I don’t think he has ever been in a su­per­mar­ket in his life.”

Twas ever thus: as soon as Frank Wil­liams emerged from the Scot­tish Catholic board­ing school he had at­tended from age five, he be­gan tin­ker­ing with mo­tors, driv­ing hellishly fast, and oc­ca­sion­ally rolling over cars. His sin­gle-mind­ed­ness was not dented by the hor­rific 1986 crash which left him a quad­ri­plegic, nor was his stiff up­per lip.

The pre­his­toric gen­der

politics of For­mula One cast a long shadow over Wil­liams’ life and ca­reer. For­mer F1 hos­pi­tal­ity man­ager Lyn­den Swain­ston de­scribes her co-workers as “pos­si­bly the most sex­ist peo­ple in any sport”. David Brodie praises Ginny as “just a fan­tas­tic girl to talk to; like talk­ing to a fel­lah but wear­ing Chanel No5”. That didn’t curb his eye for the ladies, we are told, or from the “screw­drivers” as the pit groupies were “af­fec­tion­ately” called. It can’t be easy for Claire Wil­liams, who has fol­lowed her fa­ther into the busi­ness and is the deputy team prin­ci­pal of the Wil­liams F1 rac­ing team.

Rac­ing fans are sure to en­joy a his­tory that takes in Pa­trick Head’s in­no­va­tive car de­signs in the late 1970s and the 1986 ri­valry be­tween Nigel Mansell and Nel­son Pi­quet, although lit­tle is said about Ayr­ton Senna’s 1994 crash, pre­sum­ably to avoid tread­ing on the toes of Asif Ka­pa­dia’s 2010 film. But it’s Clare, Ginny and the ul­ti­mately un­re­solved Wil­liams fa­mil­ial dys­func­tions that will hook every­body else.

Frank Wil­liams

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