Film Reviews

Skid Row Marathon: Dir. Mark Hayes (2018)

LA’s famous Skid Row, a 1.12km stretch of the city that, according to the 2000 census, housed around 17,000 citizens, 5 to 8,000 of whom are technically homeless. With a huge population of people in need of help, a sad reality for many is a life of drink, drugs and crime, which can lead to lengthy jail terms. If you’re ‘lucky’, you’ll come face to face with Judge Craig Mitchell, one of the nicest men in US law enforcement around today, a man dedicated to changing lives for good. Skid Row Marathon documents his determination to do just that.

After years of sentencing people to life imprisonments, Mitchell felt it was time to put something positive back out into the world. Contacted by a former inmate now living in the city’s Midnight Mission homeless shelter, Mitchell decides to start up a running club for anyone interested in getting fit. A keen sportsman himself, Mitchell has experienced the euphoric highs running can give to a person, and he believed that the club could do just that for someone willing to let it happen.

Enter our main players (or should that be runners?). David, an artist, who lived on the streets for 10 years before moving to the Midnight Mission shelter; Rafael, an ex gang member looking to turn his life around; Ben, a talented musician, desperate to move away from his past alcoholism; Rebecca, who wants to be able to provide for her young son; and Mody, an academic whose career was stalled by drugs. While not all of our cast have served time inside, they’ve all experienced incredibly tough hardships, all eager to turn things around. Can training alongside Mitchell, with international marathons in mind, help them move forward?

Skid Row Marathon has everything you want from a documentary. From the start it’s engaging, opening on footage of Mitchell in the courtroom, solemnly sentencing a man to a life term. We then delve straight into discovering more about him, his interests, his background, even meeting his wife and son. And our runners – we come to care about each of them, their stories, their experiences, and their goals. We’re rooting for them throughout; they are our characters, and we wish them the best.

With the tagline ‘Their story is one of hope, friendship, and dignity‘, this is almost a ‘feel good’ film, as you’ll come away from it inspired by what you’ve seen (and maybe enough to strap on your running trainers…). Director Mark Hayes tells the individual and collective stories sensitively, with just enough information without it becoming sensationalised or over-sentimental. While not all of our cast make it to the finishing line, it’s enough to see them trying, reinforcing Mitchell’s belief that if it can work for five of Skid Row’s residents, why couldn’t it work for so many more?

Skid Row Marathon is a heartwarming, inspiring documentary that shows giving back can be as easy as a run around the block.

Skid Row Marathon is released in UK cinemas on 9th May.

Find where to watch it here and click for more #SkidRowMarathon

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