In the same way that the word ‘entertainment’ advertised in a run-down Blackpool hotel immediately conjures up images of 70s also-ran musicians playing 60s classics with a sparkly Stratocaster and Alba tape deck, the words ‘football’, ‘feel-good’ and ‘comedy’ coalesce to create an aura of fag-packet scripts with lame soccer-puns and cameos from struggling Ipswich Town players. There are very few films that have mixed the beautiful game with a decent comedic narrative; Fever Pitch, Jimmy Grimble…then you’re struggling. Mike Bassett was fine, yes, but anecdotal at best. Even the generally infallible Aardman fell flat on their faces with Early Man. And Bend It Like Beckham was only enjoyed by those who think Jaap Stam is an east European style foxtrot. So glass half full, lean genre pickings for those who can achieve it. Glass half empty, getting Julian Clary to star in a Rammstein video. The Bromley Boys is the latest in the line of soccomedies (word trade-marked Vulture Hound 2018) to attempt to make something worthwhile out of the genre mash.
The year is 1969 and David Roberts (whose memoir ‘The True Story of Supporting the Worst Football Team in Britain’ the film was based on) is three years into an obsession for part-time Isthmian league strugglers Bromley FC. His football hating dad, played serenely by Alan Davies refuses to even talk about the game in the house, adding it to the list of taboo conversational items (British Rail, the Post Office, etc). David’s mum – a welcome return to the screen by the lovely Martine McCutcheon – realises his love of the game, so packs him off to the game every week under the premise of cub scout meetings. When David meets some like-minded older supporters in the local café, they plan a 4 man demonstration at the game to oust incumbent manager Dick Ellis (cue ‘Dick Out’ t-shirts – oh, matron!). He then ends up sat between manager and irate club owner and local millionaire Charles McQueen, played by the ever-welcome Jamie Foreman, before learning some club secrets and first meeting McQueen’s daughter Ruby (Baker) who he instantly falls for.
What follows is placidly enjoyable whimsey. David starts up an awkward relationship with Ruby – he accidentally headbutts her while recreating an imaginary headed goal – and an unlikely rapid inclusion into the Bromley FC managerial fold. How much of this actually happened is open for debate, but it’s honestly difficult to believe most of what is being shown. That aside, there are some funny moments and occasional flashes of tenderness. The cast all do their job; Foreman particularly stands out as he squeezes every possible nuance from the aggressive club director, and Savannah Baker’s recital of Ruby’s character arc is to be applauded.
There are a couple of twists that are less than mind-blowing but the beautiful 60s backdrop allow you to wallow in nostalgia during the film’s slighter moments. The Bromley Boys isn’t Fever Pitch, but thankfully it’s not Bend It Like Beckham. Think Gregory’s Girl meets Dusty and Me and you’re somewhere near the eighteen-yard box. SHOOT!
Dir: Steve Kelly
Scr: Warren Dudley, David Roberts (book)
Cast: Brenock O’Connor, Alan Davies, Martine McCutcheon, Jamie Foreman, Savannah Baker
Prd: Dean Fisher
DOP: Bart Sienkiewicz
Music: Erran Baron Cohen
Run Time: 106 minutes
The Bromley Boys is available on DVD from 22nd Oct 2018.