Arts

The Man Who Wanted To Fly a heart-warming tale of a life-long dream coming true

The Man Who Wanted to fly opens tonight at QFT Belfast

"CLEAR the sky, the old man is coming!" So jokes octagenarian wannabe pilot Bobby Coote of his lifelong ambition to become airborne.

Director Frank Shouldice's gentle, heartwarming documentary captures the twinkly eyed Co Cavan bachelor's efforts to do just that against the odds of age, lack of any previous flying experience and the doubts of others – including his own brother, Ernie, who gently mocks Bobby's proclamation of imminent flight by teasing him: "Sure where would be safe to stand?"

However, Bailieborough-based Bobby – a spry old geezer who at one point shows off for Shouldice's camera by riding his bicycle backwards with the poise and conviction of a man a quarter of his age – is determined to realise his fly-boy dream.

He enlists the help of his enthusiastic neighbour Sean, who creates a runway in one of his fields and donates a dilapidated shed for a hangar. Now all Bobby needs is a plane – and to learn how to fly it.

The Man Who Wanted To Fly allows us to get to know the brothers, the last of their line who are still living together on their family farm. With their opposing personalities and interests – Ernie is a hard grafting homebird with a taste for classic Spaghetti Westerns and HAM radio, while Bobby is a more creatively minded, social animal who hand-crafts his own fiddles from scrap wood and enjoys music sessions at the village bar – the Cootes make for an engaging double act as they reflect back on their lives and the respective paths they have landed on.

There are various bumps along the way in Bobby's quest, but eventually he finds the right people to help him turn his dreams into reality, including Gerry Snoddon, a friendly flying instructor from the Ulster Flying Club in Newtownards who literally takes the Co Cavan man under his wing.

A sweet, compelling watch, The Man Who Wanted To Fly will be inspirational fodder for anyone harbouring an unlikely dream of their own. If there isn't a lump in your throat when you finally see Bobby soaring over the heads of the cheering Bailieboroughians who've gathered to watch him realise his lifelong ambition, you're made of sterner stuff than me.


:: The Man Who Wanted To Fly is screening at QFT Belfast from tonight at 6.30pm. Tonight's screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Frank Shouldice and Gerry Snoddon. Tickets and full showtimes from Queensfilmtheatre.com

THE MAN WHO WANTED TO FLY (Not rated, 86mins), Documentary

Starring: Bobby Coote, Ernie Coote, Gerry Snoddon. Director: Frank Shouldice

RATING: 7/10

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