At this point Paddy Considine is very close to being a British film legend, for both acting and directing. His first film Tyrannosaur was terrific – a really moving, honest, and untold tale of disenfranchised people in middle England. This time it’s more of a passion piece, a boxing movie of sorts, about the tragedy that can come from the sport. Considine stars as middleweight champion Matty Burton, at the end of his career but with a point to prove. He has a young child with his wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker), and they wait at home whilst he fights. A fight to defend his belt early on in the film drastically changes the life of Matty Burton, and the people around him.
Going into this you kind of know what to expect. It’s going to be brutally emotional, dramatic and at times devoid of joy. This seems like the themes Considine likes to explore, for better or worst. It’s a tough film to market because of that, with the narrative being a drawn out tragedy. Quickly the simplicities of what Considine is trying to achieve is clear, and you have to prepare for an hour of mostly being sad and uncomfortable. So it’s not for everyone, which is why this film is hard to review, because at a raw level it is brilliant – I just wouldn’t be rushing to recommend this to all my friends. The story is tough, because we respond to the situation (a man losing his sense of self, movement and memory to brain damage) like many of the characters do. We’re scared, devastated and unsure how to help. One of the joys of the film is seeing characters overcome this, and begin to understand their own capabilities. It’s a nice human thing that Considine acutely captures with gentle filmmaking.
And even though there are violent, shocking, and aggressive moments, for the most part it is very gentle filmmaking. He stays close up throughout a lot of the film, and rarely is there a flash of him cinematically showing off. It’s all about the situation and the acting. The acting from the main two (Considine and Whittaker) is great, and they have so much room to show range. Their interactions are slow and at times difficult, so there is breathing space for some proper emotion. Whittaker is the heart of the film, with her loneliness and hopelessness being ever present. Considine does well basically moving from hero to desperate villain, and makes all the subtle changes of voice, and physicality completely convincing. A phone-call between them got my tear ducts going.
In short this film is tremendous at portraying the terrifying issue of brain damage in contact sports. It does it with bleakness, but for me that part of the film worked. The only major problem I had with the film is that seeing it in the cinema felt almost pointless and I’m hoping it gets a good streaming release. It’s a film to watch definitely, but perhaps in the comfort of your own home, with a cup of tea to get you through.
Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket?
Saying NO to this opens a whole can of worms about not supporting independent British movies. Considine is clearly talented, and I’m interested to see what he can do with a bigger budget. It’s just I can definitely see the benefit of this getting a streaming release as well as a cinematic one, because it’s hard to make the effort to go out and see a film you know isn’t going to be a totally happy experience (and is straight-forward in its technique).