‘Federer: Twelve Final Days’ Review: Roger, Over and Out

Roger Federer retired from tennis at age 41, having accomplished everything there was to accomplish: 20 Grand Slam singles titles and a reputation so good that his native Switzerland slapped his face on a coin. (He was once named the second-most admired person in the world, behind Nelson Mandela.) “Federer: Twelve Final Days,” a polite documentary from Asif Kapadia and Joe Sabia, follows the living legend throughout September 2022, from his retirement announcement to his final professional match. The camera keeps a respectful distance as Federer exits private planes and cars and navigates press conferences where, as any sports fan knows, candid emotions are as rare as talent like his.

The fluidity that Federer ignores has always been a striking contrast to his grounded nature. In his farewell match, in which he plays doubles alongside old rival Rafael Nadal, his hope is simply “to produce something that’s good enough.” Federer describes himself as an emotional man, but with the international press and his management team almost always on the sidelines, there’s little privacy to get personal. One of the more vulnerable moments the film captures is when Federer wears the wrong shirt during a photo call.

To convey sentiment, the film instead relies on a score that snorts like a racehorse being shot. Yet athletes are witnesses to their own vigil. Flickers of interwoven images from Federer’s youth sing of the grace that will forever surpass his four brutal knee surgeries. When he botches a shot in his final match, the crowd looks funereal — and the colleagues present, from Björn Borg to Novak Djokovic, seem to recognize that this tragedy, this mass mourning for an aging superhuman, has happened to them. Or that will happen.

Federer: Twelve Final Days
Rated R for language. Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes. Watch on Prime Video.

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