Sunday, July 14, 2024

“FEDERER: TWELVE FINAL DAYS”

THE STORYThis intimate and revealing documentary captures legendary tennis star Roger Federer’s final days on the court as he prepares for his last tournament, offering a rare glimpse into the life and mind of one of the greatest athletes of all time. It ultimately provides a fascinating portrait of a man grappling with the end of an era.

THE CAST Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, John McEnroe & Bjorn Borg

THE TEAM Asif Kapadia & Joe Sabia (Directors)

THE RUNNING TIME – 90 Minutes


It seems that 2024 has become nature’s way of pushing back against the pickleball propaganda that has been forced into the mainstream. This past spring, tennis took over Hollywood massively with Luca Guadagnino’s latest film, “Challengers.” The Zendaya-led tennis flick brought people to theaters, made tennis-core fashion bubble up to the top of social media trends, and overall invigorated Gen Z audiences to spark interest in a sport that has always been consistently appealing (at least on an international level). Those newly exposed to the world of sports might want to learn about one name that would undoubtedly pop up: Roger Federer, one of the greatest male athletes to pick up a tennis racket. The Swiss-born ball boy turned tennis legend won 20 Grand Slam singles titles and is beloved by many worldwide. Although he only recently retired in 2022, filmmakers Asif Kapadia and Joe Sabia want audiences and tennis fans alike to reminisce alongside Federer himself with the new documentary “Federer: Twelve Final Days.” Although the film explores some of the emotional complexity that derives from one of the biggest moments of any athlete’s career (let alone one as prominent as Federer’s), it still succumbs to the dull traditional storytelling that most sports docs released today cannot escape.

If you’re looking for a documentary that is an entirely comprehensive examination of Federer’s career, then “Federer: Twelve Final Days” isn’t for you. Instead, the film focuses mainly on the final days leading to the legend’s departure from the sport. At the film’s start, audiences witness a nervous Federer sitting down, preparing to record his official retirement announcement. What follows is viewers seeing Federer alongside his family and management, waiting for the inevitable message to be officially released into the world. It’s quite fascinating to have an interpersonal look at a moment that, although inevitable in every athlete’s life, is never anticipated. Kapadia and Sabia do an excellent job of capturing the array of emotions that cloud Federer’s face. There’s the realization of the acceptance that a significant part of his life is now completed, while there’s a slight relief he doesn’t have to burden himself with it anymore. Federer’s body – especially at this phase of his career – had become plagued with injuries, and it was only a matter of time till his time playing the sport arrived at its limit.

Unfortunately, what follows in the film never reaches the emotional complexity and intrigue of the opening moments. Throughout the rest of the following days in which the documentary takes place, Sabia and Kapadia capture the whirlwind experience of Federer doing press, interacting with his peers like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, and preparing for his time on the tennis court for the 2022 Laver Cup. You see glimpses of the past while Federer recounts some of the key moments throughout his career, but the film never lingers on it for too long. The way the film introduces Federer’s relationship with other members of the Laver Cup team and the way he plays with these athletes is also entertaining. It is interesting to hear Federer’s thoughts on Djokovic (a player opposite in play style and personality) and how his opinions have changed him over time. Most of the other interviews feel like standard venting by Federer and his family members over obvious feelings about what made him decide to end his career. The sentiment is appreciated, but there are only so many times you can get the point across about how injuries decimated your body and how tough it was to play through it. This leads to the film’s middle section becoming a bit of a bore to get through despite its brief runtime. Sure, the point of the documentary is to capture the entirety of this period, and the feelings Federer and his family are experiencing. Still, it never compares to hearing Federer talk about the golden days and his experiences with Nadal and Djokovic.

On a technical level, the documentary is solidly edited, as Sabia and Kapadia have implemented a mixture of interviews and older footage of Federer playing tennis. Yet the pacing sufferers heavily, once hearing these similarly opinionated interviews mentioned earlier, consistently occur. The final 30 minutes of “Federer: Twelve Final Days” is where it starts to pick back up again, and audiences witness Federer play for the last time in the 2022 Laver Cup. Seeing the last moments Federer spent playing this sport on the court alongside Nadal (a close friend and competitor throughout his entire career) does elicit somewhat of an emotional response. Non-tennis fans most likely won’t have the same connection to watching these final moments unfold compared to fans of Federer and the game as a whole. By the time “Federer: Twelve Final Days” ends, you probably won’t get anything new out of the documentary unless you are completely unfamiliar with Federer. If the film had retained what made the first half so special, then maybe this documentary could have been far more memorable. If you’re new to the world of tennis and want to learn what made Federer so special, you might have better luck watching a compilation of his highlights on YouTube.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - It’s fascinating to see Federer’s immediate reactions to the announcement alongside his views on his peers.

THE BAD - Similar interviews with the same sentiment and pacing issues dramatically slow down an already-brief film. It never reaches the emotional highs and intricacies of the emotions an athlete experiences during their retirement from the first act.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

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Giovanni Lago
Giovanni Lago
Devoted believer in all things cinema and television. Awards Season obsessive and aspiring filmmaker.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>It’s fascinating to see Federer’s immediate reactions to the announcement alongside his views on his peers.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Similar interviews with the same sentiment and pacing issues dramatically slow down an already-brief film. It never reaches the emotional highs and intricacies of the emotions an athlete experiences during their retirement from the first act.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"FEDERER: TWELVE FINAL DAYS"