Williams

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Morgan Matthews

Starring

Emily Bevan Frank Williams Jenny Funnell

Anticipation.

An icon of British motor racing takes the limelight. Could be… boring?

Enjoyment.

Frank Williams has his legacy well and truly besmirched in this highly unflattering and very juicy portrait.

In Retrospect.

The line between fact and fiction is sometimes blurred in awkward ways.

Motor racing’s favourite son comes under fire in this entertainingly unflattering documentary portrait.

Don’t feel you need to have any interest in the world’s most tedious sport (motor racing) to glean enjoyment from this probing documentary profile of one its key players, Sir Frank Williams. Director Morgan Matthews parlays his eventful life and times into this twisty-turny drama which, from the off, is highly critical of its vaunted subject.

In fact, Williams is very close to being what in journalistic terms would be termed a hatchet job, as this portrait of the ageing F1 scion is unflattering to say the least. His story begins when, at a young age and on the cusp of penury, he discovers the need for speed, and falls in to the very early motor racing scene with some monied chums. Yet despite his own love of driving hard, fast and out of control, he naturally falls into the role of car maker and overseer, hiring drivers to enter (but seldom win) the races.

The film introduces the idea of a wide-eyed dreamer who is so utterly smitten by the smell of burning rubber that little in life matters a jot. And there is certainly empathy to be extended towards someone who has discovered a passion and decided to dedicate every waking hour towards serving that passion. And yet, as details accrue about his personal life through interviews and the testimony of his late wife, this image of the fervent innovator begins to fracture. A stark counterpoint is made between his vast professional success and vast personal failings.

Even though the film leaves enough grey area for each viewer to make their own decision as to whether Frank is a saint or a shitbag, we’d be remiss to state that it errs far more to the latter than the former. The film has very little to say about F1, to the point where Clarkson acolytes might even feel a bit short changed. But it does tease out a saga about an inward-looking man who is entirely blind to the feelings of others.

Indeed, this film could well be renamed “narcissist”, so unsparing is its depiction of a man who is – and lets not mince words here – an A-class, old, old, old school minsogynst. While off night and day playing in his sand pit, his long suffering wife, Virginia, talks about accepting Frank for who he is, but reading between the life, she clearly lead a lonely and loveless life (not least because Frank was something of a tomcat who prowled the pitstops for tail).

Williams is built up of decent, detailed talking head interviews by friends and colleagues, which help flesh out Frank’s obscure character. The choice to use recreation in scenes of Virginia relaying her tales of woe are a weak point, as they only help to muddy the line between truth and reality, as well as confirm that director Matthews is happy to deal with a very fluid and falsified version of the truth. It’s a compelling watch, though, and like all good journalism, you highly doubt the subject likes it very much.

Published 4 Aug 2017

Tags: Frank Williams

Anticipation.

An icon of British motor racing takes the limelight. Could be… boring?

Enjoyment.

Frank Williams has his legacy well and truly besmirched in this highly unflattering and very juicy portrait.

In Retrospect.

The line between fact and fiction is sometimes blurred in awkward ways.

Read More

Senna

By Matt Bochenski

Senna may well have been a victim of F1’s politics, but it’s also clear that he played those games as well as anybody.

review

The 30 greatest car chase scenes in movie history

By Matt Thrift

How many of these pulse-quickening set pieces have you seen?

Rush

By Oliver Lyttelton

Ron Howard marshals that bland battle between two Formula One titans from the 1970s.

review

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design