Sunday, September 28, 2014

There's only two Neil Baldwins

Marvellous? Absolutely. In fact, that title might have been an understatement.

They say that truth can be stranger than fiction, and the extraordinary life and achievements of Neil Baldwin are certainly testament to that. Peter Bowker's biopic, recently screened on BBC2, told the remarkable tale of how Baldwin blagged his way into positions as kit man for the football club he supports (Stoke City) and as a clown in a travelling circus, into the House of Commons to chew the fat with Tony Benn, into Keele University as an unappointed student support officer, onto the umpires' boat for the annual Oxford v Cambridge boat race, and into unlikely but enduring friendships with a whole host of prominent figures, particularly within the twin spheres of football and the Anglican church. While it may all have seemed somewhat unbelievable, on several occasions Bowker - in a neatly surreal touch - had the real Neil Baldwin appear to confirm the film's accuracy to his fictional representation.

That fictional representation was played by Toby Jones, whose performance was nothing short of phenomenal in terms of mannerisms and verbal and behavioural tics - though he was aided in that task by a superlative script that contained a beautifully bittersweet blend of tragedy and comedy, and some of the finest lines of dialogue I've heard for some time. I'm not ashamed to say that both sides of the film brought a tear to the eye on more than one occasion.

Uplifting without being mawkishly sentimental, Marvellous was the story of an irrepressible character (in the fullest sense of the term) who has refused to be defined by limitations placed on him by others (Baldwin was classified as having learning difficulties), who has repeatedly vaulted over or simply skirted around barriers placed in his path, and whose irrepressible and eternally optimistic nature should be a lesson to us all.


skif said...

Absolutely. Shower Toby Jones with awards for that performance - I shall certainly admit to being a wet mess around the eyes on a couple of occasions.

Needles to say my ATP chums from Stoke loved it too. I'm told Neil Baldwin's guest of honour at the game tonight.

Ben said...

Indeed he was - and rightly so. A shame the ensuing match and result panned out to his liking, mind...