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Soundtrack review: Manny (Lorne Balfe – 2015)

Documentary Film scores

Soundtrack review: Manny (Lorne Balfe – 2015)


Ok Lorne Balfe, slow down, I can only write so fast! I’ve just finished reviewing Home and another score by you is knocking on my inbox. This makes it what, 25 already for this year? But see, if I was to choose which composer I would love to have release one score each month, Lorne would easily make my top 5. And it’s good to have someone from our side keep pace with Alexandre Desplat. And so far in 2015 every composer is eating Lorne’s dust in terms of output. Actually, is “Manny” only the 6th score I’ve heard from him this year? Still makes it more than one a month. This is already his second sports drama score for 2015 and these are among my favorite types of movies… After the brilliant work he did on the Pantani documentary he comes and scores the film about Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao. Now Manny is getting ready for the fight of the century against Floyd Mayweather on May 2nd and he is the people’s favorite. I am rooting for him as well and I will surely look for the documentary as soon as the score is over. What? Oh… Nevermind. I will actually keep reviewing when this score is over because Lorne never sleeps and “Blackwood” is already waiting for me…

“Manny” opens with the 8 minute long title cue which is simply a delight. I can almost see the images in my mind… the people’s hero training, rising, overcoming adversity. The composition is inspirational and hopeful, almost anthem like in some moments. This track doesn’t weigh heavily and is not overly dramatic. It actually puts me in a good mood and it motivates me. There are moments which soar high into the sky on the wings of a sweeping motif and others which just make me want to go and run and beat my own personal records. This is almost an unexpectedly warm orchestral delight from Lorne who wrote a tune so catch and pleasant that it could feature on the opening credits of something. Yes, I could do with hearing it once a week.

Lorne chose a light melancholic tone for most of this score and it works. Manny Pacquiao isn’t a flamboyant or in your face character. He’s the underdog and he comes from a land totally opposite to the mighty US and I can hear that in the music. He is not a big guy either and Lorne captures that perfectly. It’s not just that because Lorne very cleverly inserted many anthem like moments in his cues, moments that help make the music motivational and inspiring. There’s also a constantly rising sense in the music. The cues usually start quietly and build up as if they were small training sessions in themselves.

We should not forget that this is a documentary so the music isn’t here to take center stage. This score never tries to hijack the listener’s feelings. It suggests when the scenes in the movie are sad, or reflective, or when the moments just need to be quieter (like the acoustic guitar theme “Childhood”) or when the more important movies like Manny’s fights arrive. “Manny” is the kind of score I always enjoy in the background. It helps me think, it could also help me on my slower training sessions and it generally puts me in a good mood. The music is light without being generic. Sometimes it’s sweetly atmospheric (“The dream”). If you want to make an idea about this score and don’t have 8 minutes to spare for the main theme, try “A day in the life”. It’s the perfect example of what works in “Manny”.

You will discover a more sensible, dreamier Lorne Balfe in this score. You wouldn’t guess that “Sardo” or “One-handed boxer” were written by him. You will discover a quieter Lorne Balfe and even ambient music writer Lorne Balfe. This score only adds to the extraordinary diversity this composer is capable of and helps confirm that 2015 is his year. Can’t wait for what comes next.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 31 / 48

Album excellence: 64%




A day in the life

The dream



One-handed boxer

Beyond boxing

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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