SXSW 2022: Facing Nolan

Directed by: Bradley Jackson
Distributed by: TBA

Written by Alexander Reams


There was a time when going into the batter’s box you knew you weren’t leaving it. You most likely wouldn’t even hit the ball, this period was known by the name, Nolan Ryan. Historically one of the greatest pitchers of all time, he not only captured the hearts of fans, but also the fear of his opponents. The iconic pitcher is the subject of director Bradley Jackson’s debut, chronicling the major points of Ryan’s life, while also dealing with his family, and his commitment to the game. Before I jump into what I liked I’ll briefly talk about my few issues with “Facing Nolan”. The film as a whole felt very surface level throughout, like a Wikipedia page but in the film medium. By the end, I felt like I knew the bare bones about Ryan, but this ends up playing to the film’s strengths. From the first moment that Ryan sits down and begins to speak, you can tell the emotion in his voice, speaking about when he met his wife to him recounting stories from his days on the mound, all expertly captured by Jackson.

The strongest part about Jackson’s direction is his control over the film, not to the point where the story that each speaker is trying to tell is filtered, but to where these stories allow Jackson to go, showing old game footage of Nolan, interlaced with the voices of various people in Ryan’s life, from his wife to people who played with and against him throughout his career. I enjoyed this parallel storytelling throughout the film, and it was a joy to see a player who I grew up loving and admiring be the subject of a documentary, and for that doc to be as good as it is was very pleasing. As a fan of Ryan, I had certain expectations going into this, and by the end, they were met, and the film showed that it was not just for baseball fans, it’s for everyone.

“Facing Nolan” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the SXSW Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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