Television: Beckham’s on target, but breadline film-makers move the goalposts
The ex-footballer’s celebrity outlook is seemlier than the way children are asked to talk about living in food poverty
On the road: Becks and his mates in ‘David Beckham Into the Unknown’
Before David Beckham sets off on a motorcycle trip from Rio through the Amazon rainforest “to find himself”, his wife, Victoria, reasonably asks, “Why can’t you find yourself at home?” But he’s a recent retiree, and for the first time in 22 years no one has made any plans for him. So he and three mates are off to Brazil, to document his search in David Beckham into the Unknown (BBC One, Monday). Believe it or not, he really does talk about finding himself in the diary-style videos, which is sweetly naive, as he potentially exposes himself to all sorts of kickings. He’s so open, though, who’d want to?
Beckham’s expeditionary team is made up of a film-maker, an experienced motorcyclist, and his best friend since they were 14. They discuss the final details of their trip while downing Guinness – a brand manager somewhere is still hyperventilating – at Beckham’s local. Pottering around their fabulous London home, Victoria asks him what he’s going to do about his hair. The rainforest, she reminds him, is on the humid side.
The close-ups and in-jokes start early and establish how intimate a portrayal of Beckham this film is going to be. That and the filmed chat he has with his teenage son Brooklyn in the garden before he leaves, telling him to look after his mum and his little brothers and sister. For a film about four mates in leather jackets on a road trip, it’s not blokeish, and as Beckham appears to have survived two decades in the celebrity glare without loading up on guile and cynicism, his wide-eyed, up-for-it mood is infectious.
Refreshingly, the film is all about him. It’s not one of those vastly irritating travelogues the BBC loves making, presented by a celebrity on an ego trip that pretends to be about scenery. With its shaky handcam, off-the-cuff observations and relaxed style, David Beckham into the Unknown is all about the ex-footballer (it helps that he looks like a film star) and ultimately about his fame and paparazzi-magnet celebrity.
Beckham is happy to be recognised; in Rio he’s mobbed anytime he takes his motorcycle helmet off. “I remember being a fan, too,” he says as he poses for yet another photograph with an awestruck local. But he’s even more thrilled not to be recognised, although it’s not until they are deep in the rainforest that this happens. The film is not so much about Beckham finding himself as about finding a place where no one knows him. “What work do you do in your land?” their guide asks. “Play football.” The guide stares back blankly, provoking Beckham to elaborate. He’s explaining about goalposts and a ball and teams of 11 players to a man who doesn’t eat if he doesn’t hunt. “Have you ever had to explain football before?” his mate asks. “Never,” he says. “Only to my wife.”
And even after days sleeping in a hammock, his hair is still fabulous.