Movie Review – McKellen: Playing The Part

And he’s still playing a part…

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill

McKellen: Playing the Part takes a look at the life of stage and screen acting legend Sir Ian McKellen, tracking him from his time as a young boy, through to his career in the theatre world and his eventual move into the film industry. Filled with firsthand stories from McKellen, the documentary demonstrates the inspirational figure McKellen has been and continues to be in society.

While it largely relies on interviews with McKellen to narrate the story, the use of archival footage and photographs is actually the most interesting part. Director Joe Stephenson has been allowed unrestricted access into the life of a traditionally private man, and he takes full advantage of this privilege.

Stephenson doesn’t interview anyone other than McKellen for the entire duration of the documentary, which seems like a pretty big mistake. McKellen has worked with a host of brilliant actors including Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith and Sir Patrick Stewart. Each of them could have added a different dynamic to the documentary with anecdotes about McKellen.

Stephenson attempts to get McKellen to open up and bring some rawness to the documentary, but this proves to be a bit of struggle. To be honest, it’s not really a surprise. McKellen has spent his entire career ‘playing the part’ during his interviews and press tours. No wonder it’s difficult to pull down his walls.

The documentary still has its emotional moments, however, especially when it comes to how McKellen hid his homosexuality until his early forties. His coming out was very public and he shares how he lost friends and lovers to the AIDS epidemic. Here we gain a real insight into parts of McKellen’s life that aren’t as well known, especially his strong activism around sexuality.

While it doesn’t quite reach the depth it needs, McKellen: Playing The Part is still a nicely made documentary that’s worth watching on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

McKellen: Playing The Part is available in Australian cinemas from September 27

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution 

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