Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Film Tip of the Week

By Ray Pride

JANUARY 12, 1998:  An austere gem. Jim Sheridan's "The Boxer," co-written by Terry George, lit by Chris Menges, is a melancholy mood piece of uncommon power. While spare and terse, its blunt simple tale of the return of Donnie Flynn (Daniel Day-Lewis) from prison to Ulster, and his return to boxing, has an almost spiritual intensity. Brian Cox is grave as Joe Hamill, the local IRA overseer more willing than his hotheaded underlings to seek peace. He's the father of Maggie (Emily Watson), the woman Day-Lewis left behind fourteen years earlier. At first, the community thinks of Donnie as a strong man, a quiet man, but like Joe, Donnie's trying to rise above the unending strife. He's determined to let the fire that burns inside himself come out in his boxing and his nonsectarian work with kids at a local gym. The moral conflict is etched in terse dialogue and Menges' stirring images -- gunmetal-and-grease light composed of grays and slates and striated blues; twilight and dusk, cobalts and vermilion, steeped in damp and dust; shafts of bluish light roiling with chalky motes. Then the pain in Day-Lewis' scorching, seething performance, matched by Watson's gravity, her large, full blue eyes, her amazing repertoire of small, fragile gestures. It's almost criminal how commonplace, how ineffably luminous Watson can be all at once. Her lanky, unaccountable feminine form is invested in a character of strength, fortitude, intelligence; somewhere between angel and goddess. Danny tells her, "I've lived with your face for fourteen years, Maggie. It's hard to talk to you, the real you." A man would wait fourteen years for that face, I believe that. And if that face would wait? That would be "The Boxer."


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