Being AP review: Thrills, spills and dry dour wit

Being AP has more in common with a rehab movie than it does with the average sports doc

Being AP
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Director: Anthony Wonke
Cert: 12A
Genre: Documentary
Starring: Tony ‘AP’ McCoy, Chanelle McCoy, Dave Roberts
Running Time: 1 hr 43 mins

Disclosure: I don't know anything about horse racing and the Grand National makes me squeamish. I did, nonetheless, enjoy every minute of Being AP, mostly because of the dry, dour wit of the film's subject and the good-natured eye-rolls provided by his wife, Chanelle.

“Pain is temporary, losing is permanent,” scowls the record-setting jump jockey Tony “AP” McCoy during Anthony Wonke’s appealing biographical portrait. In a world blighted by motivational prizes-for-all sloganeering, here’s a mantra you won’t find on the gym wall, yet it speaks plenty of how the Co Antrim- born jockey came to dominate his sport.

The director's access is remarkable in the circumstances: McCoy may have been frank enough to write three autobiographies but he's hardly unguarded. Still, Being AP takes in domestic squabbles, nail-biting downtime at the track, doctors shaking their head in dismay at the scale of McCoy's accumulated injuries and many, many awards and trophies.

It's not enough: it's never enough. McCoy has been champion jockey every year since turning professional, he has rode on 4,000 winners, won every major race and has been named Sport's Personality of the Year by BBC and RTÉ, but Being AP has more in common with a rehab movie than it does with the average sports doc.


McCoy’s reluctant decision to retire – an early restaurant scene sees him so repulsed by the very word “retirement” that he can’t finish his lunch – seems to reconfigure his very DNA from champion stock to doomed Shakespearean hero. Happily, the man has enough supporting players and gallows humour to see him through the dilemma that all top athletes must ultimately contend with.

A team of cinematographers – Tom Elliott, Neil Harvey, and Andrew Thompson – bring thrills and spills to the racing sequences, but don’t be fooled by all the pretty horses: this is a deliciously dark depiction.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic