reviews

Glasgow Film Festival: Benny

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Published by Glasgowist.

Benny is an education in the art of boxing, an unflinching look at the unimaginable depravity of Glasgow’s slums during the Great Depression, and an insight into the triumphant rise and tragic fall of the people’s champion, Benny Lynch. The documentary follows the story of the pint-sized 5ft 4in boxer – born in the Gorbals on August 2, 1913 – his astonishing success, and his tragic decline resulting in his death from malnutrition on August 6, 1946, aged only 33.

The film, directed by Andrew Gallimore and produced by Seumas MacTaggart, details how Lynch’s triumph managed to disperse sectarian tension to truly unite the Scottish people to rally around their homegrown hero – an ordinary man from a poverty-stricken background who gave the country hope and rose to the top, despite the odds being stacked against him.

Benny appears to make a conscious effort not to dwell too much on the boxer’s turbulent personal life and struggles with alcoholism. Instead, the film honours the boxer’s memory with a technical, genuine, and detailed depiction of his raw, unrivalled talent and the unique boxing style that catapulted him from rags to riches, and, tragically, back to rags.

Part of the Local Heroes category at its world premiere last night at the Glasgow Film Festival, the documentary features animated recreations of scenes from Lynch’s life and the Glasgow he grew up in, as well as archived footage of Lynch in action – hailed as the greatest boxer Scotland has ever produced. The film delves into Lynch’s life and ancestry, and the history of Glasgow itself from the 1910s-1940s, alongside interviews from a plethora of boxing experts and historians, boxing writers, and modern-day boxers alike.

Starting out in carnival booths, gaining experience and perfecting his craft, Lynch was spotted by coach Sammy Wilson who nurtured the young boxer’s talent and helped him on the way to becoming the flyweight division champion of the world. But as the interviewees of Benny recollect, we learn that as the boxer’s popularity, reputation, and celebrity status grew, new voices in his ear led him astray and a genuine friendship was cut short with the man who always sought to protect him. This instance marks the beginning of Lynch’s demise as his life, and his drinking, spiralled out of control. The boxer even had to resort to selling off his well-deserved accolades in order to feed himself and his demons.

In Benny, Gallimore and MacTaggart have created what is a heart-warming and faithful homage to Lynch, his extraordinary achievements, and the legacy he left behind that is still being talked about over 70 years after his death. Audiences are encouraged to remember Benny as the great fighter he was in his early-twenties, and the hope, fire, and unity he inspired in leagues of fans across Scotland and beyond. The film focusses on the boxer’s charisma, determination, ability, and skill, and how no Scottish boxer since has been on par with his talent.

This inventive, affectionate, and moving retelling of one boxer’s short, triumphant, and tragic life is a must-see, and a real tribute to Glasgow and to the man himself, Benny Lynch. All that’s left to ask now is: who is going to play Benny in the movie?

★★★★

Do you have a Benny story? Let me know in the comment section below.

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