There are a lot more empty swimming pools than there used to be in backyards across the US. But where most see a sad sign of a country stuck in recession, Josh Sandoval – “Screech” to those who know him – sees opportunity. Unceremoniously tipping out the remaining black sludge, examining the walls for “death boxes” (anywhere a hapless skateboard might get stuck) and keeping one eye out for an owner of any description, Screech cheerfully transforms the pools that cross his path into personal, miniature skateparks. Until he invariably gets moved on by a disgruntled neighbour, that is.

Screech, we come to learn, was at one time pretty high up on the pro-skater food chain. Used to touring the country with sponsors and groupies, it appears he gradually grew more and more dependent on the recreational side of the career until he quit skating altogether – done in by too much drug-taking, drink-drinking and injury-ignoring. But, this summer he plans to get back in the game. No sponsors, no pressures; just him, a board, and the friends he picks up along the way. And his six month old son, Sid. When he has time.

Director Tristen Patterson wisely chooses to keep his mouth shut throughout his documentary, allowing Screech’s world to gradually unfold via the conversations we witness and events we are privy to, rather than by staging interviews or mechanically churning out helpful exposition. It’s deceptively elegant stuff; putting one in mind of skater dramas such as Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park rather than a typical documentary, and considering how little actually happens to Screech in the time we spend with him, kudos has to go entirely to the director for managing to create a compelling drama that is more than the sum of its parts. The snapshots he chooses to show us are poignant, beautifully shot and actually rather hypnotising; cannily choosing to separates his tale into 11 parts that unapologetically cut through moments of calm (of which there are many) in order to push along the plot. He’s aided in this task by a pace-injecting punk-rock soundtrack showcasing the likes of The Germs, Bipolar Bears, Best Coast and Little Girls, which also serves to involve us all the more in the strangely lethargic ROCK ON spirit that comes hand in hand with skating, smoking, dreaming and drinking.

Screech himself is a deeply frustrating protagonist; mumbling vaguely about his great life dreams whilst preparing yet another joint, promising his young son he’ll give him the structure he himself never had whilst planning to tour Orange County with his new girlfriend and generally spending his time caught between wishing he could do EVERYTHING and slowly realising he can’t be bothered to do anything at all. Though Patterson never seems to frown upon his chosen hero, as we count down the remaining parts it becomes clear that we are witnessing a quiet tale of disillusionment, with an ending that is actually rather tragic in its banality. Dragonslayer is not for everyone, but its certainly a master-class in capturing an urgent originality in a life ever trundling towards the ordinary. It’s unlikely you’ll want to keep up with Screech once it’s all over, but you’ll certainly want to keep an eye on the man who pointed at him.

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