Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes
I have always loved a sports documentary particularly the ones on cricket for which I have always been passionate about. So every time there is a good documentary of cricket, I am all ears for it. After some good documentaries like The Test, Fire In Babylon and Bandon Mein Tha Dum, another documentary was out last weekend on the life of Ben Stokes who is one if the leading All Rounders in World Cricket at the moment! And his life has been in the spotlight for the good and bad!
The man behind some of the famous wins by a rather rampant English side was undoubtedly Ben Stokes. But to get into his mind to discuss something which is beyond cricket was fascinating for me. So then is the documentary Ben Stokes : Phoenix From The Ashes worth your time, stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
Ben Stokes : Phoenix From The Ashes is the documentary on the life of Ben Stokes as he shares some interesting insights of his personal life particularly when he was at his lowest. In a conversation with legendary filmmaker Sam Mendes, it does make for an edgy documentary which breaks the conventional path in many ways.
There are so many incidents wherein Ben does pour his heart including the mental stigma tagged to the game. As a viewer, it did make for a compelling yet empathetic viewing about a star player whom we all have adored. The screenplay often jumps timelines making the narrative non linear in many ways which did go perfectly with the edginess of the drama.
The scenes involving his emphatic Lords or Headingley heroics simply gave me goosebumps as it narrated the memorable wins through the current English players, something that had left me awe-struck while watching the game live. But the most interesting aspect as far as the screenplay was concerned involved the Bristol controversy and his constant fight with depression after his father’s death(something which I will elaborate in the “My Take” section). Also the screenplay also did give us an indication of how close Ben was to his family and his father, after losing whom it became kind of a hollow void for him. Another interesting aspect is the role of the media in his life who are often guilty of stepping over the line. But overall, the screenplay does its bit in giving a glimpse of Ben’s psyche to the viewer!
Being a cricket fanatic, I will always have that little bias as I pen the review. Having watched and also analyzed the game in more ways than one, I have always enjoyed a different perspective. So to relive the miraculous wins from the point of the players with Ben Stokes being at the centre of it, did add a lot of flavour to the documentary. It also was successful in highlighting the fact that Ben might be perceived as a fighter but he, like everyone else, also has his weaker moments making him more human than a superhuman. This was a thoroughly impactful yet poignant series which was so much more than cricket!
It was recently that India’s star batsman and modern day legend Virat Kohli had opened up on his fight with mental health and depression, a term that we use very loosely. It made me ponder over the fact that a privileged life may not guarantee you a happiness quotient, mentally speaking. There are moments where you do not want to get out of bed or the smallest of triggers upsets you or you are constantly weighed down by the general consensus and noise around you. But it is important to address it and take professional help if necessary. The more you dwell on it, the more it will grow on you(and this is coming from someone who was suffering from acute depression as well).
Speaking from a cricketing point of view, I remember so many questioning the integrity of players(I am guilty of it too at times), without understanding that even the players are humans and they will have their days where they are low mentally. The social media is a place where everyone has an opinion which is not necessarily a good thing. It is a very unforgiving place which can also affect your mental health at times. And so credit to Ben Stokes for setting an example and taking a break from international cricket when he was emotionally and mentally down.
We often judge a person by saying he is NOT mentally strong. And there cannot be a worse thing than that. It means you are pushing that person to the zenith when his own body isn’t supporting him. It is like you are forcing a person suffering from a fracture to keeping moving the injured part of his body. Sometimes, it is important to walk away or take a step back and allow yourself to heal before restarting your life. This needs to be a norm for depression and mental issues are on the rise in my generation as well as the generations to come. Again it has nothing to do with your financial background, but it needs to be normalized and atleast addressed.
One of my favourite quotes are – “In A World Where You Can Be Anything, Be Kind”. Because you don’t know the challenges or situations the other person has gone through. So even as a cricket fan, I will now try to be less judgmental and more empathetic towards players! Lesson Learnt! And More Power To Ben and anyone suffering from or have been through depression and still smiling(or even if not). You guys are strong and real fighters in life!
Ben Stokes : Phoenix From The Ashes(a reference to his tattoo having a mythological significance) is a relevant documentary that goes beyond cricket. Available on Amazon Prime and Highly Recommended.