The Bromley Boys Review.
Supporting a terrible football club is not easy. There is a strange phenomenon that occurs between matches when you support one. You watch your team lose, usually by a substantial margin, write off any chance of them getting better anytime soon, and still come back and watch them next week. At times it resonates more with Einstein’s definition of insanity than anything else. Director Steve Kelly explores this with his newest film that adapts the memoir of David Roberts (Brenock O’Connor), a man who found himself supporting one of Britain’s worst football clubs in 1970, Bromley FC.
The premise of this movie is a fun one. David is a friendless and partially neurotic 15-year-old boy. It’s not that he doesn’t want to make friends, it’s that none of them wants to see Bromley play with him, and it’s hard to blame them. With half of the team players being old and out of shape Bromley are woeful when it comes to game day, and their only real prospect in 1970 is avoiding relegation. Regardless, as the film states, ‘you can’t choose who you’re going to fall in love with’ and with that said David’s undying love for Bromley FC leads him to friendship, a girlfriend and a chance to become a football manager.
As fun as the plot is, it’s difficult to highlight much to praise in the execution. Everything is too run of the mill. Kelly appears satisfied with allowing The Bromley Boys to wander off to its conclusion without anything unpredictable occurring. From start to finish the film plays as if all too happy to tick off movie tropes and crack jokes about it along the way. All in all, this makes what seemed a somewhat original concept play like it’s entirely unoriginal and that detracts from the experience drastically.
The humour is only sporadically funny, in saying that, when the jokes land it can be quite hilarious. I found the trio of friends David makes to be the most amusing. Roy Oliver (TJ Herbert), Peter Batchelor (Mark Dymond) and Derek Dobson (Ewen MacIntosh) are three fans who become friends with David thanks to their mutual interest. They combine to have the best laughs of the movie, which is why it’s so disappointing that the script fails to utilise them. Understandably, a movie based on David’s memoirs is primarily about David, but the fact remains that even with the charming and witty daughter of the club owner Ruby McQueen (Savannah Baker) by his side he’s just not funny enough.
“Show don’t tell” is a basic storytelling rule that “The Bromley Boys” has a difficult time following. There is a decent flow and pace to the narrative, which works rather well, but the cost is that the characters like to hit us over the head with every revelation and twist. There is an entire scene where the major twist is explained outright through dialogue, and it was blatantly jarring. These characters are likeable and funny at moments; there just needed to be more from them in terms of carrying the story by their actions, not their words.
The performances are all up to scratch, but the casting in one instance is rather strange. Comedian Alan Davies is in the only non-funny role in the entire film, David’s father. He manages it just fine, but it’s altogether strange he’s there. By trade, his job is to be funny, and he’s quite good at it. He easily could have slid into any number of other roles that would have seen him shine far brighter. Suffice to say that his presence in the film only serves to allow us to wonder what could have been. Outside of this O’Conner and Baker make for a winning couple, despite the fact they are so mismatched it’s entirely unrealistic, the two young performers manage to make it work.
The tone is the film’s final issue. The dramatic side of the film revolves around how connected David has become to the club. Their failure directly impacts his life for the worse. This rollercoaster is the films strongest narrative point; it makes for a unique look at desperation, one that in the final moments is almost pulled off.
Unfortunately, by the end, it’s hard not to think that it falls short. It’s clear why this comedy film doesn’t spend more time on this, but I can’t help but feel they should have. As a result, this tonal change towards the end is quite stark and doesn’t work so well as the director intended. Nevertheless, it’s a strong concept slightly reminiscent of a very watered-down version of Robert De Niro’s character from The Silver Linings Playbook.
Overall The Bromley Boys always manages to slip itself up whenever it gets going. Had there been more method to the madness, this could have been an enjoyable heart-warmer, but it misses that mark. There are still aspects here to like and some genuinely funny moments, but ragged tonal changes and a blunt unimaginative twist see The Bromley Boys relegated to a missed opportunity.
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