Josh ‘Screech’ Sandoval is the wayward Californian stoner skater with the world on his shoulders and a head stuck in the clouds. Tristan Pattison’s feature debut Dragonslayer (2011) follows the accidental young father as he struggles to reignite his skating career. It is both heady and bleak to watch: an exquisite portrait of a lost boy chasing old dreams. Following the breakdown of his relationship with his son’s mother, as well as the deterioration of contact with his own mother, we learn what factors moulded this curious character. His depression spiralled out of control in the years building up to the Pattison’s film.
This free spirit fell into a deep and dark place, a place continuing to exist for all to see as his movements are documented. When he’s not blazing away with his current young beau, Sandoval is attending both international and local contests, but even then seems frustrated, hesitant and vacant, abandoning his clear talent and pushing away his adoring girlfriend with the utmost self-destruction. Whilst Dragonslayer recounts the movements of a irresponsible, freeloading man who needs to step into reality, it sensitively explores his psyche and the reasons behind his lack of motivation and moreover, his seemingly determined curiosity to destroy all that is good.
Pattison does well not to rudely cast any blame or exploit Sandoval – a feat considering his plethora of misdemeanours and flaws. Some intricate cinematography is orchestrated in some of the skateboarding scenes, particularly those depicting Sandoval flipping tricks alone in empty and abandoned local swimming pools. Sensory devices such as sunlight and the sudden sounds of board contacting surface are used to heighten the drama of certain scenes – not unlike the style of Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park (2007). The use of natural light is also advantageous in exploring our protagonist’s sad, solitary journey to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
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