This year’s BFI London Film Festival included the directorial debut of British comedy-actress Jessica Hynes, showing off her skill behind the camera with a slice-of-life drama called The Fight. The film follows Tina (played by Hynes), a busy mother of three and daughter of a rocky marriage who can barely find any time for herself.
Not only that, but things begin to get even more complicated for her when the reappearance of a former school rival forces Tina to face up to some difficult memories, whilst both their daughters begin a similar bully-based relationship. Confronting these mid-life stresses and concerns around the nurture of her family, Tina takes up boxing as she discovers how to fight for herself (both literally and figuratively). It’s an ordinary tale following grounded, sentimental pressures.
With the basics out of the way, let’s get onto some critiquing of this fine British indie flick… and that’s pretty much it, it’s “fine”. Hynes proves herself as capable behind the camera, creating a great little glimpse into family matters and an organic atmosphere of a small British town. Most of the cast charmingly hold our attention during the film’s runtime, giving fairly intimate portrayals of every-day people with Hynes especially pushing out a vivid performance that dances between a person’s fragile strength and suffering.
Unfortunately, beyond those positives, The Fight is much less captivating and at times very underwhelming. The plot always remains pleasantly simple but easily gets over-packed, by the end feeling like a jumble of character arcs that go nowhere or never began in the first place with aimless resolutions. This is perhaps the key issue I have with the film, as every time the story gains traction and anticipation, it switches to another side-plot that doesn’t go far. It’s actually an understandable and intriguing formation, given the details of each plot follow similar correlations.
The clear intention was to instead build a thematic stronghold around ideas, like the growth of family, how to find strength within ourselves, and the effects our childhood can have across different generations. The problem is that the goal is not efficiently realised, as these ideas remain undeveloped for the most part and therefore end up with nothing to say. It’s certainly ambitious, and no one in this film’s production should feel disheartened for attempting that. It’s just that for Hynes’ debut it may have been better to start with something a little more singular and limited in its characters.
Elsewhere, the film continues to be just as much an example of both ambition and uncertainty. The cinematography is pleasantly grounded but also perhaps too restricted, rarely looking at a creative or stylish way to make the ordinary setting overtly interesting. The editing flows in and out of its own flair, perhaps not knowing precisely how to handle dramatic tension as well as having an unclear voice on comedic timing (which hats off to the screenwriters and cast, is delicately sweet just often misplaced). The score also follows a similar battle between itself, gripping at one moment but at the next relies too much on uninventive, dramatically slow piano tunes that border on cliché. Altogether, it’s a difficult result as it shows that this story can be great, but rarely does it commit.
To sum things up, there are truly inklings of cinematic beauty scattered throughout this film. There’s one scene in particular that I found especially memorable, unique, and worth its 91 minute runtime. The problem is, these few moments still don’t complete the film’s message and there’s an equal scattering of mish-mashed concepts. I’m not sure this will play well to your casual filmgoer, but any fan of smaller indie cinema will likely have an amusing experience (and I think it deserves a strong viewership from that sector). The Fight is not formulated well enough to be a great film, but it is still a great example of what vast potential Jessica Hynes holds as a filmmaker. Even considering all my negative critiques, I still would like to see another film by Hynes, and see what she could do after any lessons learned from this.
The Fight premiered at the LFF with no wider release date currently announced. The film stars Jessica Hynes, Shaun Parkes, Rhona Mitra, and Liv Hill.