Over the course of just under a year, I have careered from ardent and ignorant hater of football to fascinatingly interested in the sport. My family are Newcastle fans, I myself am an Aston Villa fan, solely because I like a challenge, and the friends I viewed All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur with are Celtic supporters. An eclectic mixture, indeed, but all of us share a passion for the sport. My connections with Spurs are minimal, non-existent in fact. I have never been to North London, and I doubt any trip there would be viable, feasible, or rewarding. Still, I have been wrong before, and I will be wrong again. For example, All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur seemed like an engaging bit of stylish documentary making, but, surprisingly, I was wrong.
Narrated by Tom Hardy and swiping work away from David Attenborough, this nature documentary follows a group of wild, primitive beasts who must kick balls and do so without much success. All helmed by the leader of the pack, manager José Mourinho, one of the few men to show any form of inspired courage or semblance of understanding regarding the English language. Not to tap into the rich vein of “dumb footballer” tropes, but there is a surplus of content here, and the presentation from director Anthony Philipson is a tad high-brow, especially for such a fly-on-the-wall approach.
What is offered throughout All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur is a collection of moments that fit together only barely. Beginning with the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino and ending with the current state of Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign, you would be forgiven for thinking a lot was going on. With such cataclysmic events around every unexpected corner, it is unfortunate that Philipson saps all the detail out, replacing it with the behind-the-scenes moments he thinks audiences and ghoulish fans of gossip are there to see. Footage of players talking about chocolate or flash houses, laughing about crashing into cars or moments of brief, faux inspiration where few players of note spout words of even less importance.
With inevitable links to current events and pandemic woes, All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur offers a great deal of footage, but little in the way of quality. At nine episodes, audiences are given a good scope of topics, a range of moments from Tottenham over the course of a season that has garnered attention and speculation. None of that is shown, though, and if it is, it is buried beneath pockets of absolutely miserable, grindingly slow moments. With its cheesy series of slow-motion shots paired with inspired music ripped straight from the vaults, dusting the folder marked “upbeat orchestral.wav” off and spilling it onto anything that has a vague sign of emotionally striking promise. These are few and far between, but Philipson is insistent on pulling emotion out of moments that don’t have a spark of energy or poignancy.