Marvellous DVD cover
|Written by||Peter Bowker|
|Directed by||Julian Farino|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Running time||90 minutes|
|Original release||25 September 2014|
Marvellous is a British drama television film that was first broadcast on BBC Two on 25 September 2014. The ninety minute film, directed by Julian Farino and written by Peter Bowker, is about the life of Neil Baldwin, from Westlands in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire.
Baldwin, who is an honorary graduate of Keele University, was appointed as Stoke City Football Club's kit-man by the manager Lou Macari in the 1990s. Baldwin's autobiography, Marvellous: Neil Baldwin – My Story, was published in hardback in 2015.
- Toby Jones as Neil Baldwin
- Tony Curran as Lou Macari
- Gemma Jones as Neil's mother, Mary Baldwin
- Greg McHugh as Neil's friend, Malcolm
- Nicholas Gleaves as Rev Mark
Making cameo appearances as themselves:
The programme was commissioned by Janice Hadlow and Ben Stephenson. The executive producers were Patrick Spence and Peter Bowker for Fifty Fathoms and Tiger Aspect Productions, and Lucy Richer for the BBC.
|Author||Neil Baldwin, with Malcolm Clarke|
|Publisher||John Blake Publishing|
|Media type||Print (hardback)|
Marvellous was filmed mostly in Staffordshire. Several of the scenes were set at and filmed at Keele University. Crewe Alexandra Football Club's Alexandra Stadium and the Glyndŵr University Racecourse Stadium in Wrexham, North Wales were used for the scenes set at Stoke City's football ground.
Andrew Anthony, for The Observer, said "Jones realised its potential with such poignant insight into character that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part. [Baldwin]'s life has been a triumph of unselfconsciousness, which is easier read about than captured.
But in a story fraught with the danger of sentimentality, Bowker located a sort of comic truth about an innocent at home and Jones made that truth both funny and movingly real."
Ellen E Jones, reviewing the film in The Independent, said: "The triumph of Marvellous is that it’s a feel good film that feels good, not through any Hollywood schmaltz, but through the sheer force of Baldwin’s own optimistic personality".
Sarah Crompton, for The Daily Telegraph, described Marvellous as "sweet and sharp... on the whole a great number of people emerge well from this film, including Stoke City’s former manager Lou Macari (played by Tony Curran but also popping in as himself) and many long suffering clergy. It might have been too cute in different hands, but both Toby and Gemma Jones gave performances that were almost as miraculous as the story itself."
Jim White, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, described it as "a wonderful, uplifting, life affirming 90 minutes of television. And the most compelling argument yet that – despite all the evidence presented by previous filmic depictions of the beautiful game – it is possible to extract telling fiction from football."
Rachel Cooke in the New Statesman said of Toby Jones' portrayal of Baldwin that he "played him brilliantly, turning in an understated performance that combined innocence and wryness to powerful effect". She praised Bowker’s "pitch perfect script, which was as natural sounding as a conversation overheard on the top deck of a bus", and Farino’s direction – "so deft, quirky, witty and attentive to important details (buildings as well as moods; rooms as well as body language)".
Reviewing the programme for the Stoke Sentinel, John Woodhouse said "It says everything for Neil that Marvellous was ever made. For in times when television is seduced by vacuity and celebrity, it doesn't sound that promising a pitch. A drama, set in Newcastle [under Lyme], about a man saddled with the tag of 'learning difficulties' who reveals himself to be so much more? Good luck with that one. And yet here it is – primetime BBC2."
Stoke Sentinel columnist Simon Lowe described it as "the most human of stories: a truly stirring, laugh-out-loud tearjerker of a drama. Part biopic, part musical (has there ever been a better use of the ukulele in a piece of television – and I’m including George Formby’s contribution to the instrument’s status in that?) and part incredible journey, Marvellous was life-affirming and inspirational."
Lou Macari was quoted in the Stoke Sentinel as saying: "The film really captures Nello [Neil Baldwin] as he was and for those who didn't know him I can assure them everything in the film is true. There are many moving moments, and it must be the best 90 minutes viewing Stoke-on-Trent has had for a long time."
At the 2015 British Academy Television Awards, Marvellous won the Single Drama award and Gemma Jones received the British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Baldwin's mother. Baldwin collected the former award and made an acceptance speech.
The DVD and a digital download of Marvellous was released on 1 December 2016.
Baldwin's autobiography, Marvellous: Neil Baldwin – My Story, written with the help of Keele University alumnus Malcolm Clarke, was published in hardback by John Blake Publishing in August 2015.
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- White, Jim (28 September 2014). "Peter Bowker's uplifting BBC drama featuring Toby Jones truly was Marvellous". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
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- Cooke, Rachel (24 September 2014). "BBC2's Marvellous lives up to its name". New Statesman. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
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- Lowe, Simon (29 September 2014). "Simon Lowe: Marvellous film puts Nello up there with all the Stoke City greats". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
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