Does not do much to reinvent the genre, but nevertheless, Losers is a compelling collection of parables about overcoming adversity that gives us an insight into resilience and determination in the face of defeat at the highest levels of sport.
Sport is defined by its successes. To win is to gain everything: fortune, adulation, immortality. To lose, well that does not bear thinking about. Fans of sport love nothing more than an underdog, someone who despite insurmountable odds overcomes adversity to achieve success; but what about those athletes who don’t win in the usual terms? Who don’t secure an eternal legacy or win gold; athletes who by all conventional measures are ‘losers’ yet emerge from their defeats triumphant and redefine for themselves what success can look like.
Losers, the Netflix documentary series (streaming now) explores this phenomenon with a collection of short parables about recovery in the face of defeat. On the whole, it is an effective and thought-provoking series. The stories include Boxer Michael Bentt’s recovery from a career-ending injury in an embarrassing defeat, Mauro Prosperi’s attempt to complete an ambitious endurance race in the desert, and Torquay United’s unlikely escape from relegation thanks to the actions of an overexcited police dog. The thing that unites each of the 8 short documentaries is how the subjects were forced to re-evaluate how they defined success. For some, that means finding meaning out of the sport and for others it’s having an impact that transcends winning and losing.
Inevitably with a collection like this, some are better than others and that is largely down to how candid or charismatic the athletes being interviewed are. The stories range from the profound to the delightfully quaint, which mostly works in its favor. However, this does mean this may not be best suited to binge watching as the tonal swing from one to the next is a little jarring.
In format, the series is conventional. There is the usual collection of talking heads and archive footage of the sporting events themselves. However, where Losers stands out is in the way that it gives us the context of the events themselves. Viewers who are not particularly familiar with the nuances of figure skating or how the lower leagues of English football are organized are given a clear and succinct summary of the information you need to grasp the stakes involved in the story. This is delivered through neat and quite effective animations.
Where most sports docs focus on the winners or the ‘greatest’, it is refreshing to hear about those that perhaps didn’t quite reach the heights but used the experience to better themselves or become happier, more rounded people in the process. Losers gives us that, wrapping it up in the packaging of a conventional sporting documentary.
Losers debuted globally on March 1, 2019. You can check out the rest of our Netflix coverage by clicking these words.
Andy joined the Ready Steady Cut team in October 2018. A Graduate of Exeter University, he writes mainly about films and TV.