Ping Pong (PG)
A testament to the power of the human spirit and a sporting version of the quest for eternal youth, Ping Pong is an uplifting documentary that presents old-timers as heroes and heroines and proves that age is no obstacle when one wields a mean table tennis bat.
The youngest member of the real-life ensemble cast, Terry Donlan from Stockport, is a mere stripling at 81. The queen of the tables is centenarian Dorothy de Low from Australia. In between is an array of veteran players all competing in the over-80s world championships in China.
A tale of obsession, sportsmanship, ruthless competitiveness and eccentricity, Ping Pong is a delight – a delicious blend of fly-on-the-wall reportage and full-on sports coverage – in which eight spunky individuals have seemingly taken a sip from the fountain of youth.
Donlan’s great pal and fellow GB teammate is 89-year-old Les D’Arcy who, in between penning and reciting poetry, lifts weights at his local gym. He keeps his collection of gold, silver and bronze medals in a carrier bag in his den at his home in Wakefield. It’s a far cry from the gung-ho American lady whose medal tally is on display for all to see.
Director Hugh Hartford explores national stereotypes amongst his British, German, American, Chinese, Swedish and Antipodean competitors but generally steers clear of caricature. Not that his cast is in any way ordinary: this lot is amongst the most extraordinary gathering you will witness in any film currently on the circuit.
Ping Pong charts their successes and failures, their will to win or lose with grace, and, in Donlan’s case, to climb from his hospital bed to compete whilst battling cancer. It’s a magnificent moment that makes the heart swell with pride.
A magical film that presents a journey along the highway of old age, it champions the elderly and proves that one’s golden years can be truly that: golden, and laden with medals.
Brilliant and beautiful.