Matt Harris’s documentary, Rom Boys: 40 Years of Rad, tells the radical story of England’s most beloved skatepark. From the park’s humble beginnings to its current fight for preservation, the doc is jampacked with exciting skate footage and cultural history. That’s great if you have a passion for, or at the very least, a passing familiarity with the subject. Unfortunately, its loose narrative format leads to a scatterbrained story that often isn’t very easy to follow for the uninitiated.
The documentary features a lot of talking-head interviews with some of England’s most influential skaters. Most of them are older, wiser, and definitely, a bit wore down. Still, it is interesting to hear how they first came to the hallowed grounds of Rom. There is a bit about how skating teaches kids lessons that reverberate throughout the rest of their lives. You learn that skateboarding encourages young ones to work hard, have the discipline to keep at it, and get back up after falling so that you can have a go at it once more.
“…interesting to hear how they first came to the hallowed grounds of Rom.”
With that said, Rom Boys has a hard time sticking to a linear timeline. The film is continuously interrupted by asides that ended up breaking my concentration. I was interested in the history of Rom and why it deserves to be protected and why it is so revered. Therefore, when the story deviated into an interview subject going off on a seemingly non-connected tangent, it grew tiresome real quickly.
I have issues with the music. It starts with this punk rock intro playing over a title sequence that looks like a stylistic skate magazine in motion. Then immediately, it boots up a generic prim and proper violin and vocal track that gave my ears severe whiplash. After that, things never recover. The music remains low energy and generic. It doesn’t fit the visuals, and it throws off the entire tone. The stylish editing is top-notch. The skate footage is well done and full of amazing stunts and tricks. The documentary does have some very likable and charming subjects, my favorite being Lance Mountain, but also quite a few dull and monotone subjects that seem to be there to pad out the runtime.
Rom Boys: 40 Years of Rad is enjoyable, but it’s definitely not the best skateboard documentary out there. If you are a fan of skateboarding, you might find the story fascinating. Still, I don’t think I’d recommend this documentary to anybody who isn’t.
"…the radical story of England’s most beloved skatepark."