ManIFF 2015: Personal Gold - Cinema Review

'it's all very clever stuff, but it is also all something that can be accomplished with a little bit of duct-tape'

An 'untold story' style documentary, about just how it was that the US women's track cycling team came to win silver at the London 2012 Olympics, Personal Gold is a hugely satisfying, if relatively formulaic, underdog story with charm and tears to spare.

Left out in the cold after a funding cut, the US women, headed by Dotsie Bausch and Jennie Reed suddenly find themselves with pressure a-plenty when the Armstrong doping scandal hits and expectations upon them to bring back a medal are increased. By the time that happens in the film, we have already been shown how under-funded they are, training out in Mallorca with only a single coach and their husbands as mechanics, cooks, masseurs and anything else they need.

Much of the charm of the film comes from the characters. Bausch and Reed, shown in new interview and flashback footage, are charismatic and determined athletes and the genuine relationships with their support-team husbands, Kirk and Brandon is heart-warming.

Perhaps more charming though is the way that the team collectively apply the sports science wisdom they learn in order to succeed. Moneyball will be applied as a comparison piece a lot with this film, but even the Oakland Athletics didn't have to tape a shower curtain to a bedroom window to create an optimum sleeping temperature. That and light bulbs being unscrewed to create a perfect night time ambiance carry this film's DIY approach to innovation: it's all very clever stuff, but it is also all something that can be accomplished with a little bit of duct-tape.

The talking heads structure perhaps holds this back from being anything more but, as with many talking heads docs, it does suit the story being told, and the characters. The frequent reliance on montage though is a little too much and there is what sounds like a fake (or certainly sub par) British commentator, who pops up occasionally to ruin the mood. It's very entertaining though, quick and triumphant, and full of positivity in the most attractive way possible.




Manchester International Film Festival runs from 10th - 12th July 2015 at the AMC Manchester Great Northern Warehouse. More details are available on the ManIFF website.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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