Jessica Hynes makes her directorial debut with The Fight, and it’s a drama well worth seeking out.

 

Certificate: 12A
Director: Jessica Hynes
Cast: Jessica Hynes, Russell Brand, Anita Dobson, Christopher Fairbank, Sennia Nanua, Rhona Mitra, Shaun Parkes
Release date: Out now
Reviewer: Amanda Keats

Jessica Hynes wrote, directed and stars in this family drama all about the cycle of abuse and bullying. Set in a small coastal English town, The Fight is the story of Tina (Hynes), a woman juggling the demands of work and family, when she learns that her daughter Emma (The Girl With All the Gifts’ Sennia Nanua) is being bullied at school. Her daughter’s bully also happens to be the daughter of someone from Tina’s own school days, bringing back some painful memories for her as she fights with her husband about the best way to help their daughter.

In an attempt to conquer the demons of her past, Tina picks up boxing gloves at a local gym. But this is not a British take on Rocky. The gloves are there partly to make her better able to defend herself, but also so that she can learn that perhaps fighting is not always the best way to deal with a bully. But life’s challenges won’t be that easy to overcome for Tina, what with her parents getting her involved in their fights, hardly having the time to see her own husband, and the general demands of three children and her job.

The Fight has a sort of Mike Leigh feel to it, with an honest and everyday tone that still carries great emotional weight. It’s all very real and believable, rooted as it is in the lives of these characters, their relationships with each other and their backstories. There’s nothing showy here. It’s just people, dealing with other people the only way they know how. You see many of them stuck in the behaviours of their past while wondering if perhaps there is a better way to break that cycle of rinse and repeat.

Nothing about The Fight feels neat and tidy, and it’s all the stronger for it. The assembled cast work well too with this very particular type of film. Everyone puts in a performance that is subtle and honest, and just as powerful for how very underplayed it all is. Christopher Fairbank, in particular, is remarkable as Tina’s dad Frank, bringing an extra layer of depth to an already complex and beautifully written role.

It’s superb work from Hynes, both in her powerful central performance and as a first-time director. I very much look forward to seeing what she does next.

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