Crash and Burn – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Seán Ó Cualáin
Writer: David Burke
Crash and Burn – December 2nd at 6.30 p.m. – Irish Film Institute – Q&A with director Seán Ó Cualáin and former F1 driver Tommy Bryne.
Tommy Byrne was born on 6th May 1958 in Drogheda, County Louth. His family was hard-working. They were “getting by” like many Irish families at the time but that was about the height of it. There were no luxuries in his childhood. Tommy adored speed and in particular racing at speed. From an early age he discovered he had a talent for driving fast cars. He blazed a trail in Formula 3 in the early eighties. He was on the verge of cracking Formula 1. This documentary seeks to explain the complexity of circumstances which combined to prevent Tommy from achieving that which he craved to do notwithstanding his, innate prodigious talent. The documentary also delves into his world after he left Europe and settled in the United States where he is still involved with fast cars and their drivers.
There are interviews with various friends from childhood and those with whom he was involved when he was on the verge of cracking it. What chimes through the film is the refrain of his extraordinary natural talent as a driver. He is compared to his contemporary, the hugely successful Ayrton Senna. However, there is still the quizzical uncertainty as to why precisely he failed to convert his talent into that which he craved most. Various theories are proffered by those who knew him and contrasts are drawn with Senna. While watching the film thoughts of sports stars, from other disciplines, pass through your mind whose parents know how to assist their child in operating the system which controls their child’s sport.
Tommy Byrne had no such parental support. He was on his own and that is what makes his story one of interest. Even if in his late fifties he remains too cock-sure, there is a vulnerability beneath the bravado which makes him a man of some substance. He is a likeable, complex figure. Anyone interested in professional sport ought to take a look at this film about an outsider par excellence and the difficulties he encountered, notwithstanding some of them were of his own making.