John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection

Sep 11, 2018

One of the best docs ever.

John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection

Grade: A

Director: Julien Faraut

Cast:  John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl

Runtime: 1 hr 35 min

By: John DeSando

“When I walk out there on court, I become a maniac... Something comes over me, man.” John McEnroe

John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection is the documentary we have waited a lifetime for: The titular tennis titan was photographed decades ago by cinematographer Gil de Kermadec but never so well displayed as in this perfect documentary by Julien Faraut using Kermadec’s footage. Call it a “found footage” doc if you will.

Faraut’s engaging approach is to have minimal but incisive voiceover while using often the ¾ view to concentrate on McEnroe’s body and language to understand the range and passion of his perfectionism. Few documentaries are able to get inside the artist’s head the way Faraut does.

Along the way is a good portion of entertainment as McEnroe berates line judges, chair referees, cameramen, and spectators, all of whom he probably believed couldn’t know the sport as well as he.

His petulant “superbrat” mien makes engaging sports viewing, and Faraut’s doc is equally so but with a deeper desire to understand the tennis bad boy’s motivations. Although seeing this film brings us closer to McEnroe’s demons, it doesn’t completely explain them.

Faraut seems to believe that McEnroe’s constant competitor is himself with the understanding that everyone should know that the forces of competitiveness and perfectionism account for his eccentric and erratic behavior. Given Serena Williams’ recent outburst, this remarkable doc helps us understand better our gifted athletes.

“What is the single most important quality in a tennis champion? I would have to say desire, staying in there and winning matches when you are not playing that well.” McEnroe

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at