Jessica Hynes is well-known for many years as both comedy royalty (Spaced, W1A) and being bloody brilliant. The Fight is her directorial debut, in which he also wrote and stars in, and while it’s a different side of her that I haven’t seen as often, this is a powerful story that packs a real emotional punch to the heart.
Hynes portrays Tina, a struggling family woman, who’s showing the signs of losing connection to her life, her family and the world around her. Her Mother (Anita Dobson) and Father (Christopher Fairbank) are living together but estranged, her daughter Emma (Sennia Nanua) is being bullied at school, her husband Mick (Shaun Parkes) is managing a couple of jobs and for an overall family of 5, there’s the every day arguments and family chaos. But one thing is very clear, day-to-day living is bang on the edge of toppling over.
While The Fight does hold a literal boxing connection underneath, it’s part of the story that offers both a metaphor and a literal turning point. This element isn’t that unsubtle, through the various progressions of narrative, but it still doesn’t take away from the wider picture, as you step back and see events unfolding. In her debut, Hynes has created what feels like a deeply personal and smart insight on family but also a comment on how we all tend to ignore any bigger problems in our lives, until they become a brutal reality that won’t go away.
This is portrayed in various ways, both through her own experiences and via the characters around her, there’s depth and it’s welcomed. While Tina’s daughter Emma is being bullied, the girl doing it (Jordan, played by Liv Hill) is also struggling with her family life and there’s a link to the past that brings everything straight to her front-door. Jordan’s mother Amanda is played by Rhona Mitra, whom we also witness struggling to hold herself and her family together but you always get the sense that everyone is searching a way out, they just don’t know how to get there still. While Amanda is somewhat on the fringes of the overall outcome, it does act as a fulcrum for Tina’s decisions on what she wants, or even needs, in her life.
The boxing element of The Fight is the next stage of Tina trying to find herself again and bring her life back. While initially just going to the boxing gym to get fit, it’s not long before she wants to get in the ring but her anger outweighs her focus, and so her coach (the excellent Cathy Tyson) asks her if she wants to take Boxing seriously, or if she wants it at all. These moments are all crucial points when Tina has to make adult decisions and to begin with, she’s unsure of anything.
The Fight also covers problems with racism, self-esteem, not dealing with personal difficulties, plus those complications that occur for anyone. There’s a scene when Tina and Mick are arguing loudly, all fuelled by tiredness and day-to-day chaos, they’re pushed to their limits. The kids get themselves ready and head off to school, these are one of many understandable situations that I reflected my own life, it’s something you hate as a kid but you know it happens. This reality is present throughout, the hidden face behind the facade, but here it’s questioned whether our characters will deal with it or run away.
Jessica Hynes gives us a strong, grounded directorial debut dealing with the fine balance of the past and the present, and where we go if we start to lose touch. There’s also an underlying reminder that if you want to move forward in your life, in any form, then it has to start with ‘you’. There are mild echoes of Paddy Considine‘s exceptional Journeyman because the film isn’t just about boxing but also the metaphor for the everyday struggle itself.
The Fight is a powerful and emotional journey, I found myself wholeheartedly affected on more than one occasion, and if you can find the heart inside any narrative, then you’ve got something special indeed.