Seve, film review: Moving portrait of a golfer who was never par for the course

(PG) John-Paul Davidson, 118 mins Starring: José Luis Gutiérrez, José Navar, Maria Molins, Alvar Gordejuela
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The Independent Culture

The producer Stephen Evans set out to make a film about the great Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros (who died in 2011) that had the same emotional drive as the Formula 1 doc Senna. He just about succeeds.

Seve is a strangely constructed affair, pitched between conventional, archive-based documentary and dramatised biopic. It flits between footage of its subject's triumphs at the British Open and US Masters and a reconstruction of his impoverished childhood as a farmer's son in Pedreña, Spain, where he taught himself golf by hitting pebbles on the beach with a makeshift 3 iron.

The real Ballesteros is a fascinating, effortlessly charismatic figure who combined discipline and ruthlessness with a sense of mischief. José Luis Gutiérrez, who plays him as a kid in the Cinema Paradiso-style scenes of Ballesteros growing up, captures his subject's charm and innocence as well as his extraordinary ambition. The film is highly selective in the episodes from Seve's life it depicts and very manipulative in its use of music and editing.

Even so, it is hard to watch the final scenes of the film without a golf-ball-sized lump in your throat. Seve is moving in a way that sports movies rarely are – and there is also some humour along the way courtesy of the Blimpish, PG Wodehouse-like pronouncements from the BBC commentator Peter Alliss, who seemingly can't mention Ballesteros without calling him a "matador of the links".