It’s not quite any of the things those watching might wish it were. But All or Nothing is compelling, thanks mainly to Mourinho.
Infamous Kevin Costner dystopi-nonsense Waterworld is the most disappointing film of all time, because it is none of the things anybody wants it to be.
Before its release it was widely touted to be both a) the most expensive film of all time and b) spectacularly, irredeemably and irrevocably shit.
But whichever one of those two key pieces of information entices you to watch it, the film will leave you disappointed. There are big set-pieces and some special effects, sure, but really there’s nothing that will make your eyes pop out of your skull and make you shout F*CKING HELL LOOK AT THIS IT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING EVER MADE!
Equally if you turn up expecting to ironically enjoy The Worst Film Ever Made like the tosspot hipster you obviously are, then you, too, will leave unsatisfied. You will have merely sat through a mediocre, flawed yet eminently watchable ’90s Hollywood blockbuster.
And that’s kind of the problem with All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur, the latest and potentially most batshit entry in Amazon Prime’s flagship behind-the-scenes sports documentary series. It just isn’t quite any of the things anyone watching might want it to be.
If you’re a Spurs fan hoping for fascinating details and anything you couldn’t have had a decent guess at based on everything we already know about events and the primary characters (and, based on the first three episodes, this series only really has one primary character), then you’ll not really find it.
Similarly, if you’re a rival fan hoping to sit back and enjoy the car crash of Spurs’ Spursy season in all its grim Spursy glory, then there’s even slimmer pickings here for you.
That latter point should have already been obvious by the heavy trail the club themselves have given the series. They’re happy for you to watch it. They want you to watch it.
This does lead to some obvious absurdities for anyone who followed Spurs’ season even remotely closely. The 7-2 defeat to Bayern Munich is covered because it has to be, but it’s very much the documentary equivalent of Opposition Goal Tweets.
Bad runs are glossed over in a sentence of Tom Hardy voiceover (“Spurs have won just three of their last nine Premier League games”) while narrow victories over Bournemouth are savoured at length. Daniel Levy is allowed to talk about how passionately he and Spurs care about the wider community in Tottenham without facing any awkward questions about The Stratford Plan which would have torn the club from that community. Mauricio Pochettino’s final 14 games as Spurs manager are dealt with in about 15 minutes with one awkward talking-head interview, a couple of brief clips and some more sombre Hardy, who is very good at this by the way.
Most glaringly, Pochettino’s departure happens off-camera and is dealt with instead by archive news footage and a strangely stilted – you could even be forgiven for thinking outright staged – conversation between Harry Kane and Jan Vertonghen at breakfast the following day.
Enter Mourinho. Now we’ve started. Football’s Tiger King and the absolute undoubted star of the show. The film-makers quite clearly could not believe their luck when he rocked up and, understandably, immediately set about taking full advantage.
And despite the often weirdly dull and superficial nature of a show that boasts of its unprecedented access, it would be wrong to pretend there aren’t moments of illumination or interest.
Mourinho’s desperation to be back in football and his relief at finding a not-too-humiliating route to do so are clear. For all the deference and puppy-dog eyes that a clearly giddy Daniel Levy shows Mourinho, you do get the sense that both parties are getting something out of what still appears, from the outside looking in, a dysfunctional relationship. There’s one moment of something approaching genuine pathos when Levy almost imperceptibly winces as Mourinho’s time at Chelsea is mentioned. Levy also insists that Mourinho remains one of the best two coaches in the world alongside another in the Premier League. Clearly a big Solskjaer fan.
There are strong second marriage and unfinished business vibes here from both sides, and there is potentially a much more interesting documentary that focuses entirely on that Levy-Mourinho dynamic.
It would probably be a lot less fun and silly, though.
Mourinho evidently feels lost without a football club and, while it would be naïve to ever be completely taken in by anything he’s doing in front of a camera, seems genuinely determined to prove he can succeed at a club like Spurs.
One thing this series may well do is endear him to some still sceptical fans because there are moments when they will realise they are not so very different. His simple reaction (“F*ck”) to learning that Moussa Sissoko is seen as a big dressing-room influence is one such example, but perhaps the standout moment of the three opening episodes is his damning verdict on Serge Aurier, delivered in full Alpha style in front of the full squad literally minutes before a must-win Champions League game less than a week into the Mourinho Era.
“I am afraid of you as a marker, because you are capable of giving a shit penalty with VAR. I’m telling you already, I am afraid of you.”
Now, it doesn’t take astonishing tactical insight to spot this Aurier tendency – literally every Spurs fan knows it to be true – but it does show something of Mourinho’s character that he is willing to state it so baldly, so early, so publicly, and at such a crucial moment.
Aurier, for what it’s worth, scored a blistering third goal in that game as Spurs came from 2-0 down to win 4-2, so maybe it works.
Mourinho’s bombastic style is also clear in three key one-on-one interviews that take place in his office early in his reign and form the narrative keystones of these early episodes. He tells a bewitched Kane he can make him a global superstar, Dele Alli that he will regret it if he doesn’t fulfil his talent, and, in Portuguese, discusses the future and a clean slate with Eric Dier.
Jose also very literally questions Davinson Sanchez’s testicular fortitude – “Do you have balls?” – and tells him that he and his Ajax team-mates “shat themselves” in the Europa League final in 2017.
The players are mainly less interesting. There’s a good running gag where every time Tanguy Ndombele appears on screen he is eating something; one of the fundamental issues with these series is that most people watching already know the ending so I guess you might as well have a bit of fun with some foreshadowing. Dele appears intelligent and self-aware enough to know what Mourinho is doing, while Kane seems starstruck and instantly becomes a massive teacher’s pet.
Mourinho describes Kane as a “silent leader” in one segment, and his attempts as captain during Hugo Lloris’ injury to rally the troops before games suggest he should probably stick more literally to that description. Kane is a great many things, but one of the great inspirational orators he is not. “F*cking come on guys, let’s f*cking win this f*cking game.”
Kane, unlike Mourinho, is a deeply unconvincing swearer.
— Kae Kurd (@KaeKurd) August 31, 2020
With Mourinho, the expletives flow like water, whether telling a television to “f*ck off” in another very staged looking bit featuring some unconvincing punditry or, already infamously, telling Tottenham’s squad of nice boys that for 90 minutes they need to be “c***s, but intelligent c***s, not stupid c***s”.
There is nothing here really to assuage the doubts about whether Mourinho is or can ever again be the coach Levy still believes him to be. But the camera loves Mourinho, the feeling is certainly mutual, and he’s a far more engaging screen presence than Kevin Costner.