Seve – film review
Seve the movie

Some sportsmen and women are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Spanish golfer Severiano Ballesteros became one of his sport’s greats after years of tireless practice in the village of Pedrena in northern Spain.

While other children studied hard, young Seve spent countless hours on the beach close to his home, practicing chips and puts with a home-made club, fashioned out of the head of a broken 3-iron strapped to a stick.

He perfected his ferocious drive by swinging balls into a discarded fishing net, which he hung in one of his father’s barns.

Armed with raw talent, 19-year-old Seve burst onto the international scene in 1976 when he finished in joint second place with Jack Nicklaus at The Open Championship.

With his good looks, easy-going charm and relentless attacking play, the “matador of the links” gained an ardent following and he won his first Open Championship three years later to rousing cheers from the crowds at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club.

For the next two decades, Ballesteros amassed a heaving mantelpiece of trophies including a record 50 European Tour titles.

He was also instrumental in establishing Europe as a dominant force in the Ryder Cup, partnering Jose Maria Olazabal to glory on countless occasions.

Documentary filmmaker John-Paul Davidson pays tribute to this remarkable sporting statesman, who died of brain cancer in 2011, with a film that intercuts archive footage with dramatisations of Ballesteros’ formative years in sun-drenched Pedrena.

In these segments, we witness Severiano (Jose Luis Gutierrez) pining for a chance to caddy at the local golf club like three older brothers – Baldomero Jr (Alvar Gordejuela), Manuel (Adrian Salzedo) and Vicente (Quim Avila Conde).

Academically, Seve falls short of the expectations of his proud father Baldomero (Jose Navar) and mother Carmen (Maria Molins).

However, with a makeshift club in his hands, he is a dazzling prospect and catches the eye of golf club members including Dr Santiago (Manuel Menarguez).

Seve is a beautifully crafted valentine to a man who rose from humble origins as the son of a farmer to become a master of his craft.

Director Davidson is unabashed in his affection for his subject and there are some intensely moving sequences like footage from his acceptance of a second Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Sports Personality Awards in 2009.

Off camera, Seve breaks down and compatriot and former Ryder Cup team-mate Olazabal tenderly whispers how much he deserves the adulation.

Dramatic recreations of Ballesteros’ bucolic childhood are tightly interwoven with real-life footage and Tom Hodgson’s script deftly navigates a fractured chronology to give a palpable sense of how an entire community rallied round their boy and shepherded him down the fairways to global stardom.

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