Was football more fun back then?

Film review

The Bromley Boys is a charming approach to the story of the abysmal Bromley football team’s ascent to… not being bankrupt. Wrought by financial issues and weak players, David Roberts (played by Brenock O’Connor) is in despair for his favourite team, ultimately becoming the solution to all their problems as he engages with the team more and more throughout the film.

Whether true to the source material or not, the story suggests that  football was so much more fun back in the 60s & 70s. Every character was played with gusto, some leaning on caricatures more than characters, but gusto nonetheless.

One character in particular, Anoushka (played by Anna Danshina) was stereotyped as the club owner’s girlfriend, benefitting from the financial benefits of partnership. Knowing the quality of  Danshin’s reputation,  for both film and theatre, I was disappointed to see her reduced to a parody, a subject merely made fun of by other characters. Development of character across the board would’ve been nice, the crucial roles of Robert’s parents (played by Martine McCutcheon and Alan Davies) had barely featured – at least those who did feature kept the fun going.

The film follows the trend of gorgeous production value; costume, lighting, sets, all highly professional displays, yet this was more of a bells-and-whistles approach than anything complementing the style of the era. Despite this, thrills, and engaging characters, the film falls short of being authentically told. The story progresses in conventional fashion.

It’s no sin, but the cookie-cutter three act structure doesn’t serve the absurd adventures of David Roberts well. It’s a cool, homegrown story, it deserves its own style. Why not give Anoushka more character? Why not break the mold and write Robert’s love interest, Ruby McQueen (played by Savannah Baker), as someone who doesn’t disagree with the boys at every turn? Too often are female characters reduced to two dimensions in basic scriptwriting.  Either the creators were worried audiences wouldn’t appreciate an experimental football film, or the producers saw an opportunity to capitalise on a little slice of English history for the sake of it – who knows?

I was engaged nonetheless. I cared for the characters and whether they’d progress from one act to the next. Despite the predictable progression, I empathised during the highs and lows – if only their way of engaging my empathy wasn’t through usual dramatic tropes. Like a colouring book, we’re restricted to the confines of its illustrator. Within these pages though, was a lot of colour we could appreciate and enjoy regardless.

Charlie Davison

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