Comedy queen Jessica Hynes is perhaps best known for her work with comic legends Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in their TV series Spaced along with roles in Shaun of the Dead and BBC ONE hit series W1A and Twenty Twelve. The Fight is Hynes’ first foray into the directors’ chair but she also stars as protagonist Tina, a stressed care-worker, mother and wife who gets into boxing to relieve some of the tensions in her life. Whilst funny in parts, Hynes draws away from her comedy background in The Fight and the film plays out as a family drama with intermittent laughs whilst delivering some emotional blows.
Set in Folkestone, where Hynes resides, the film hones in on the stressors in Tina’s life and her journey to combat them. Her day job as a care-worker keeps her busy, along with raising three children, dealing with her ailing parents and her own personal demons. When eldest child Emma (Sennia Nanua) reluctantly reveals she is being bullied at school, Tina is forced to confront her past and battles with husband Mick (Shaun Parkes) about how best to combat the bullying. The Fight is predominantly Tina’s journey to confront her own anger and where that anger comes from. The fighting of the title refers to the boxing which Tina takes up – less of an answer to Tina’s problems and more a metaphor for the internal and external troubles of Tina’s life.
When meditation and mindfulness podcasts just won’t cut it (Russell Brand as a wellness guru is the twist you didn’t expect). Tina decides she needs something more than just reminders to breathe and ends up trying out for her local boxing club. She’s knocked back on her first try – the trainer explaining explains that she simply doesn’t have what it takes. This sets Tina on a journey of self-discovery and self-realisation as she is determined to get into the ring.
Each of the scenarios Hynes presents within the Fight are sensitively handled, but there is just a bit too much going on. The central theme is bullying – a topic which is (quite rightly) in the spotlight at the moment with films like Pin Cushion also honing in on this topic. Generational trauma is pinpointed as one of reasons why bullying is so insidious (those who experience abuse at home often go on to bully others at school) and The Fight does a commendable job at trying to explore this idea. Ultimately, though, a lot of this gets lost in amongst all of the different crises. From Tina’s father’s experiences, to Tina’s own history, to her daughter Emma’s, it’s hard to keep up with the outpouring of difficult and emotional situations. All of the subplots are interesting, but the film feels too crowded to properly engage with any of them.
Still, even with its slightly uneven pacing and packed out subplots, The Fight has a more than a few moments where it shines. The chemistry between onscreen husband and wife Sean Parkes and Jessica Hynes is palpable – the two of them put up a very authentic representation of a couple of the edge of teetering but trying their very best nonetheless. A cameo appearance from Alice Lowe as a hippy new age school teacher is a very welcome surprise – Lowe, as always, is fantastic.
For a first feature The Fight shows real promise – its characters feel authentic and Hynes clearly has the skills to carve out emotionally impactful stories. It’s a shame that a lot of the more important conversations get lost in the background, but if a neatly tied up happy ending is what you crave in a film, then The Fight more than delivers. And sometimes, that’s exactly what we need.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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