★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“Quickly grabs the viewer’s attention with a heartfelt core that purely improves as it progresses”
In an early moment in Oski, the eponymous Swedish skateboarder underlines to a group of children that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s only said in passing, not meant to carry any deep sentiment, but it’s something that stays with the viewer long after the end credits finish.
Oskar Rozenberg Hallberg, or Oski as he’s known, started skating when he was nine years old. Since then, he has evolved into one of the world’s most gifted yet humble skaters. When the audience meets him, he’s about to embark on a journey that will force him to face the pressure of not solely representing himself, but a whole nation during a historic moment.
Ever since the IOC first announced that skateboarding would make its debut during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, heated yet understandable debates began. There’s something undeniably ironic about two opposing worlds — one symbolising the most mainstream of sporting spectacles and the other clinging to its counterculture origins — colliding. To most, skateboarding isn’t about winning, and thinking about it as a sport with rules that can be followed goes against its very nature. While the interviewees freely speak their minds, the documentary itself doesn’t force the viewer to side with any argument but rather introduces these legitimate concerns as seeds to entertain or dismiss as one pleases.
Even the most intriguing subject can become tedious in the wrong hands, but director Jonathan Lomar approaches Oski with undeniable care. While Oski’s more introverted personality could have proven to be an obstacle within such an intimate project, certain moments speak in ways beyond words. Whether it’s photo sessions or meetings with clueless journalists, the decision to focus a few seconds longer on Oski’s face conveys everything that he might not be vocal about in the moment, but nevertheless feels. Additionally, where Lomar wasn’t allowed to follow along due to restrictions, including Dew Tour (the Olympic qualifier) and Tokyo, the decision to equip Oski with a Handycam only further deepens the documentary’s intimacy. Every imperfect angle makes it feel like a diary of sorts, possibly even a moment for contemplative confession.
While these elements add a layer of intimacy, the choice to use animation to depict the actual Olympic semifinal is not only a great creative decision — it’s surprisingly emotional. Opting to focus on feeling instead of physicality, David Hermansson’s illustrations mirror the stakes more effectively than any footage ever could — especially when, after the second run’s abrupt end, Oski is seen falling. Rather than it representing him losing grip, it might as well symbolise him realising that he can finally let go.
Beautifully scored and shot, Oski is an intimate examination of what happens when one pushes themselves and their needs aside in an attempt to fit into someone else’s mould of what’s considered desirable. During its runtime, Oski accentuates various contrasts, including shots of Oski staying at home while his friends are out having carefree fun. However, possibly the biggest contrast presents itself during a physical test Oski is forced to partake in as a part of the Swedish Olympic Team.
Never does the clash between two opposing worlds feel more apparent than when Oski, rejecting traditional athletic gear in favour of baggy denim shorts, can’t wait to get his tests over with, underlining that it’s a waste of time that could’ve been spent more efficiently actually skating. Although the Olympics is sewn into the documentary from beginning to end, in hindsight, it is its least valuable selling point.
As Oski moves between traditional talking head interviews, archival footage, and captured everyday occurrences, it quickly grabs the viewer’s attention with a heartfelt core that purely improves as it progresses. As the audience watches Oski fly, spin, fall, and struggle as he gets up to do it all over again, it’s a reminder of how, even though he’s in a unique position, he has struggles as universal as any. Oski doesn’t solely provide an authentic representation of skateboarding to the masses — it’s also an intimate portrait of a young man openly sharing his vulnerabilities and insecurities while he struggles to find his own path in life.
The most admirable thing about Oski is that he’s a person who doesn’t solely want to evolve as a skateboarder — above all, he wants to evolve as a human being. Despite the obvious difficulties in trying to fit certain experiences and complexities into just a couple of minutes of screen time, none of the segments feel dishonest, regardless of whether they’re about the importance of talking about mental health or recognising white privilege.
Moreover, Oski is just as much about the professional skateboarder as it is about the prominent people in his life. Whether it’s the camaraderie found within a tightly-knit group of friends, the strain of a long-distance relationship, or a supportive father trying to cope with letting his only son do his own thing, there’s a sense of tenderness through it all.
Trying to satisfy two seemingly separate sides in an attempt to enjoy a singular thing is tricky, as evident with the Olympics, but Lomar manages to do what they didn’t. Even though Oski is undoubtedly made from a skateboarder’s viewpoint, it’s crafted with an awareness of the possible magnitude of one’s audience and, therefore, thoroughly accessible to all.
As the documentary successfully aligns its constellation of equally heartfelt and riveting fragments from Oski’s life, it delivers a genuine core that is timeless and universal yet contemporary and individual — an accomplishment that makes it nothing short of brilliant. Ample yet never incomprehensive, Oski manages to convey an unstructuredness that poignantly mirrors the beauty of skateboarding itself.
Director: Jonathan Lomar
Producer: Anders Eklund
Executive Producer: Mattias Lundgren
Cast: Oskar Rozenberg Hallberg, John Magnusson, Brianna Holt, Hampus Winberg, Ville Wester, Tor Ström
Available on: Vimeo (worldwide), SVT Play (Sweden)