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Mosley: An engaging documentary that tickles around the rough edges

The colourful story of Max Mosley might just be too big for a single documentary, writes Simon Brew
His time as FIA chief is a less controversial part of the Mosley story. Image: IMDb

The death of Max Mosley at the end of May brings with it, inevitably, added interest and weight to a new documentary feature about his life and work. Entitled Mosley: It’s Complicated, the film was made with his full co-operation and involvement, and as we know now, he was battling cancer.

It’s billed as a ‘no-holds-barred’ study of Mosley, although that might be overstating the case somewhat. Nonetheless, it follows the story of the stigma left by his father’s political beliefs (among the guests at his parents’ wedding was Adolf Hitler, and there’s an underlying question as to how much a parent’s legacy should define their child), and demonstrates how Mosley found his own place in the world through motorsport. Firstly as a racing driver, and then ultimately as the head of Formula One organisation the FIA. As part and parcel too, the film then covers his subsequent drive towards road safety, and the improved safety of cars themselves.

Of course, in more recent times Mosley came to prominence as a scourge in the side of the tabloid press (with wounds clearly still sore given the headlines when he died). On the receiving end of a News Of The World sting about his private life, he infamously used his fortune to help fund case after case of individuals taking newspapers to court over the hacking of their mobile phones. Mosley is on camera talking about this here, as well as the other narratives the film follows.

Which all gives writer Alexandra Orton and director Michael Shevloff plenty to wrestle with. What they’ve put together is an engaging documentary that tickles around the rough edges of Mosley’s story. He’s the key talking head at the centre of it, with significant contributions too from the likes of Hugh Grant, Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore. Punches, on the whole, are not pulled.

Notably though, what the filmmakers have also tried to do is get as much of Mosley’s life into one film, and that inevitably causes compromises. I can only imagine there’s a film’s worth of material in his battle with the News Of The World, for instance, and this gets a good amount of screen time, but conversely Mosley: It’s Complicated doesn’t have the space to go fully forensic on it. Likewise, there are hints that Mosley wasn’t the easiest person to work with at times, but not much actual digging into that. The rough edges the film is willing to explore are the ones those familiar with Mosley’s press coverage will already be aware of.

That’s not to say it’s not an interesting primer to his life and work. It’s to the credit of Shevloff and Orton that they never let the film drop below interesting. It also isn’t entirely on Mosley’s side, as much as the man himself seemed to endorse it, and there’s a lot of interesting archive footage to try to bring in differing perspectives.

Getting a limited cinema release but swiftly heading to streaming, it’s the kind of documentary that feels more at home on the latter, and it’s worth the 90 minutes it asks of you. I do wonder, though, if there’s a more complete story out there waiting to be told.

Mosley: It’s Complicated is streaming from July 19