WAYNE , Australia, 2018. Directed by Jeremy Sims. 98 minutes. Rated M (Coarse language)
In 1987, Wayne Gardner was an Australian celebrity, an Australian sport icon. It was the year that Jeff Fenech was a boxing champion and Pat Cash won Wimbledon. Wayne Gardner was voted sportsman of the year, winning the world championship in motor bike racing.
This is an opportunity to look back on Wayne Gardner’s life, his sports history, his achievement, the years after his achievement. So, this is interesting as a piece of Australiana. However, for those who do not have a passion for motor bike racing or motorbikes, it will not be so compelling.
Wayne Gardner himself is an agreeable interviewee, talking straight to camera, quite genial, remembering his past in industrial Wollongong, his first five dollar bike, the encouragement of his sometimes reticent father, his enthusiastic mother, a range of friends from Wollongong itself. Also very agreeable and articulate talking to camera (and being seen in the historical footage over many years) is Gardner’s girlfriend, Donna Lee.
While the film is a portrait, generally agreeable, not so many warts and all, it is also a look at the development of motor bike racing throughout the world from the 1960s to the 1980s, many of the personalities, Japanese promoters, American rivals, Australian collaborators. And, it has its excitement, as Gardner comes up through the ranks, eventually achieves his championship goal at quite some energy cost. But it also shows his subsequent history of developing Phillip Island as a venue in the late 1980s for the sport – and the excitement of his achievement on winning there.
The film has some dramatic and romantic overtones with the wedding of Wayne and Donna in 1989 – and a surprise for those who don’t know the subsequent history, a divorce after five years, strange given Donna’s years of devotion and support to Gardner. The film ends with scenes of Gardner supporting the racing career of his son, Remy.
A film for its niche audience, an opportunity for the wider audience to think about sport in Australia, celebrities, as well as an opportunity to think about the status of motor bike racing.
Exile entertainment Released September 6th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.