Movie review: Ping Pong

By Barney McDonald

Still from the film 'Ping Pong'.
Still from the film 'Ping Pong'.

Table tennis is a beautiful game. It takes tenacity, lightning reflexes, mental agility and sheer joy in the game to be good, let alone become a champion. And as director Hugh Hartford's delightful documentary shows, people can still be playing, and playing well, even as centenarians. In a similar vein to 2008's Young@Heart, about a bunch of ageing singers performing pop, rock and punk songs, Ping Pong is the ideal antidote to old age. It follows eight over-80s vying to become world champions in China.

From Britain, Sweden, Germany, Mongolia, Australia and the United States, they work to overcome health issues to win gold in a surprisingly tough field of more than 2000 competitors from 52 countries.

The film simmers away until it reaches boiling point in the finals, but along the way we get to know an interesting, at times touching, array of characters. Although more time could have been spent getting to know each player and photography of the games lacks the intensity of Olympic coverage, Hartford easily conveys the pleasure and determination of his subjects. In some cases, the sport has saved lives, testament to their spirit and the miraculous qualities of ping pong.

Stars: 3.5/5
Rating: G; 76 minutes; Out now.

- Herald on Sunday

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