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Manny by Lorne Balfe (Review)

posted Apr 22, 2015, 1:28 PM by Kaya Savas

Lorne Balfe has proven to be a masterful documentary composer with many of them under his belt so far. He brings a human and emotional touch to his doc scores that never make them feel like doc scores. This continues with Manny, and his score stands out here because the score is so focused from the POV of Manny Pacquiao that it instantly becomes an emotional portrait of a rags to riches story with all the varying complexities that come with that kind of success.

Manny’s journey from growing up poor in the Philippines to becoming one of the most successful boxers in the history of the sport is a story the whole world connects to. It also helps that he’s likable, never cocky and always caring towards others. Lorne helps us go on Manny’s journey from his impoverished childhood to having the whole world watch him in the ring. The score becomes very personal, and I think that happens through the instrumentation here. It doesn’t feel like generic filler or generic sounding. In fact it’s quite emotional and very touching. We literally start from the ground and work up. From the gentle plucking of a guitar to a more jazzy scene filled with ethnic percussion, the score carries its unique voice that is shaped around Manny as a person. Lorne does a fantastic job of shaping the bustling and growing aspects of Manny’s life beyond boxing as well. Pacquiao literally becomes a spokesman and role model for his home country and people, and it places this newfound responsibility on his shoulders. The music shows us how he accepts all this, it places an emotional stamp on moments in his life. When the score needs to build for that fighting spirit, it never feels hokey or forced. We get a surmounting rush and feel the energy, but we never lose the intimate nature of the music. I think the genuine nature of Manny Pacquiao as a human being lent itself to allow Lorne to craft one of his more emotionally rooted scores here. This isn’t some boxing documentary with that “fighting spirit”. I was very surprised to find gorgeous music that I really connected with. This is a real life human journey that we take through this music. It’s a simple and effective portrait of man who is excelling in what he does best, and being the best person he can be.

Manny is not a boxing score full of bravado and triumph. It’s a gorgeously executed portrait of rising from nothing and building character through extraordinary circumstances. Lorne has painted a wonderful journey of Pacquiao’s path from poverty to greatness, and all the complexities and responsibilities that he needed to shoulder as his success grew. Instead of making him seem like Superman, Lorne lets us into the fragility and emotionality of Manny as a human being. As a portrait of a human journey we can all relate to, it’s an emotionally resonant story that deserves your attention. It also proves how Balfe as a composer can craft a score that opens a window into a person instead of a life that most of us probably wouldn’t be able to relate to. Whether or not the documentary itself can be seen as a glorified PR piece or not doesn't negate how effective the score is within it.