Films about boxers overcoming adversity are a long and noble tradition within cinema, but the protagonists of such films are, with very few exceptions, men. Spaced star Jessica Hynes is seeking to correct that lack of representation with The Fight, her debut as an actor-writer-director. The film is set in present-day Folkestone and centres on Tina (Hynes), a boxfit enthusiast who turns to boxing as a way of channelling her frustrations at the fact that her daughter (Sennia Nanua) is being bullied at school, her parents (Christopher Fairbank and Anita Dobson) are on the verge of splitting up, and the cracks are beginning to show in her marriage to her husband Mick (a cast-against-type Shaun Parkes).
Whilst on the surface this would seem to be a fairly small-scale, low-budget social drama about a woman who takes up a new sport, it actually addresses some quite profound issues about how schoolyard bullying and domestic abuse can frequently have toxic effects. Turning victims into perpetrators and their victims into perpetrators, creating seemingly unending spirals that can last for generations. Hynes is impressive in the lead role as well as behind the camera, marshalling believable performances from a supporting cast that also includes Sally Phillips as her daughter’s teacher, Cathy Tyson as her boxing instructor, and Russell Brand and Alice Lowe as wellness gurus.
The film deals with material that can occasionally be depressing, but Hynes, Parkes, Nanua et al give credible performances as a family that are not without their problems but ultimately all have an immense amount of love for, and dedication to, each other. If you’re looking for a movie to restore your faith in British cinema’s ability to address universal themes on a shoestring budget within an ostensibly parochial microcosm, then you’d definitely be well advised to check out The Fight.
The Fight is out now on DVD and digital.