Film Review: The Fight

Jessica Hynes directorial debut is a character-driven drama. Despite some small qualms, The Fight works for the most part. 

Life is tough for Tina. She and her husband are struggling to juggle their full-time jobs whilst looking after their children. Tina’s mother is threatening to leave her father, and her daughter is being bullied at school…

Written, directed by and starring Jessica Hynes, The Fight is a small-scale story which concentrates on character development. Hynes has created authentic characters, particularly with her protagonist. The narrative focuses on Tina’s journey, as she navigates the various aspects of her life. 

The beauty of Hynes’ film is that every narrative development feels absolutely plausible. The filmmaker keeps certain facts back, giving the protagonist more depth as these facets are revealed. 

Hynes has created a protagonist that seems ordinary; she is overworked, stressed out but trying to hold everything together. The Fight benefits from its adherence to realism. Tina’s journey is not an extreme one, nor does Hynes rely on a very neat conclusion. Instead, the protagonist is presented as flawed, multi-layered, and very believable. 

With this devotion to realistic drama, there are two music-set sequences which are most jarring. The use of a training montage is too much of a cliché, and feels disjointed compared to the tone of the rest of the film. This is also felt with Tina listening to her music towards the end of the picture. 

Performances in The Fight are good throughout. Hynes is completely believable as Tina. She receives decent support from Shaun Parkes and Christopher Fairbank. Anita Dobson is fantastic. She really stands out in a small but powerful role. Viewers may be surprised by the size of the roles of some of the top billed cast. 

The Fight is a promising debut. Hynes shows her flair for character development, and for telling everyday stories. 

The Fight is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

BFI London Film Festival 2018 Launch

Today saw the BFI London Film Festival 2018 launch. Now in its 62nd year, the festival is screening 225 feature films, including 21 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The Opening and Closing Gala films had already been announced. The BFI London Film Festival 2018 opens with Steve McQueen’s hotly anticipated Widows, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell. McQueen co-wrote the  screenplay with Gillian Flynn. McQueen’s last film, 12 Years A Slave, screened at the 2013 London Film Festival to great acclaim. Stan & Ollie, which features John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as the legendary comedy duo, closes the festival. Other headline galas include Luca Guadagnino’s hotly anticipated Suspiria, Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. A particular highlight is Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest. The Favourite is about Queen Anne’s court, and stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weiss, and Emma Stone. 

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

There are several great looking films in the Strand Galas and Special Presentation programmes. They include Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, which is an adaption of James Baldwin’s novel. Others in this category include Lee Chang-dong’s thriller Burning, and Alfonso Caurón’s first film since Gravity, Roma, and Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Special Presentations include Michael Moore’s Donald Trump documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, Carol Morley’s noir thriller Out of Blue, and George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give. 

Official Competition

There are some big names in this year’s Official Competition. Films include David Lowery’s (A Ghost Story) The Old Man & The Gun starring Robert Redford, László Nemes’ (Son of Saul) Sunset, and Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead – Wheatley’s Free Fire closed the 2016 festival. Also competing is Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer, starring Nicole Kidman. Meanwhile the Documentary Competition features Putin’s Witness (Svideteli Putina’s film featuring footage of Putin from 1999-2000) and Julien Faraut’s John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection. First Feature Competition includes Isabella Eklöf’s Holiday and Paul Dano’s Wildlife. 

Strands

As in previous years, the eleven programme strands are back. Love features Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and the Sandra Hüller starring In The Aisles. Debate includes Oliver Assayas’ latest, Non-Fiction, starring Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet, and Catherine Corsini’s An Impossible Love. Laugh includes New Zealand comedy The Breaker Uppers, about two women running a relationship break-up service. Amongst the Dare programme is The Green Fog, which sees filmmakers Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson remake Vertigo using clips from other people’s films. Thrill includes Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård), while Cult features Nicolas Cage in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. 

Jessica Hynes directorial debut The Fight is part of the Journey strand, and Create includes Joan Jett documentary Bad Reputation. Richard Squires’ Doozy, which recreates the career of Hanna-Barbera’s villain actor Paul Lynde is one of the Experimenta films being screened. The Family strand features Linda Hambäck’s animated detective tale Gordon & Paddy. Finally, there are some great films being screened as part of the Treasures strand. These include Billy Wilder’s classic Some Like It Hot and Mae West in My Little Chickadee.

The BFI London Film Festival 2018 runs from 10th-21st October. The full programme can be viewed here.

Film Review: Burke and Hare

John Landis’ first feature film for over ten years, Burke and Hare is perfect for those who want a touch of the macabre this Halloween without the frights. It is an interesting tale, but as a black comedy it is not as funny as it should be.

Burke and Hare are two Irishmen struggling to make a living in nineteenth-century Edinburgh. When they need to get rid of the dead body of a lodger, the pair stumbles into a lucrative business providing cadavers for one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious medical schools…

Based on the true story, albeit with a healthy supply of embellishment, Burke and Hare offers a humorous and sympathetic portrayal of the grave robbers. Rather than depict the pair as cold-blooded murders, screenwriters Nick Moorcroft and Piers Answorth instead paint them as opportunists, capitalising on a macabre demand. It is difficult to see how the film would work otherwise, given the tone.

Burke and Hare exudes an air of camp reminiscent of the later Hammer horror films. This is assisted greatly by the supporting a cast, which includes Christopher Lee. Tim Curry is wonderfully camp as Dr Monroe, one of the movie’s villains. Elsewhere, Ronnie Corbett, Tom Wilkinson and Hugh Bonneville play as if they are very much in on the joke. The result is a film that does not take itself too seriously; an attitude that works very well.

Given that Burke and Hare‘s narrative centres on corpses, the presence of gore is unsurprising. However, there is not an excess, and any such depictions are not overly realistic. The film has a limited palette of dark and drab colours, so blood does stand out. It is so bright, nevertheless, that it appears fake rather than shocking. This appears to be the aim of the filmmakers, given that Burke and Hare is a black comedy.

Simon Pegg as Burke and Andy Serkis as Hare are great as the bumbling duo. It is just a shame that they were not given better lines by the screenwriters. Isla Fisher is bubbly as Burke’s love interest Ginny, although her accent is patchy. Jessica Hynes is solid as the sometimes alcoholic Lucky, delivering a number of laughs with her physical comedy.

Not the first film based on the story of the grave-robbing duo, Burke and Hare takes a light-hearted approach to quite a sombre topic. It is just a shame that laughs were not more frequent.