A man struggles to find himself in and out of the boxing ring in this riveting film debut from New Zealand filmmaker Welby Ings.
Jim Richardson is a seventeen-year-old young man who is an aspiring boxer. Living in a small town, he is met with constant pressure from his trainer and dad Stan, who is an alcoholic. Jim struggles with having to take care of his father while gearing up for his first professional fight. One day, he meets Wethu, a Maori boy who instantly takes a liking to him. Jim soon realizes something he never imagined before as he begins to slowly bond with Wethu.
Wethu is a gay man who lives on the beach in an abandoned cabin. While he and Jim bond, one day changes everything. When Wethu is assaulted by a trio of local thugs, he ends up in the hospital. It is there where Jim finally confesses his feelings to his father, who is adamant and finds himself in a predicament. When Jim is forced to leave home and train with some new guys, he discovers something shocking and finally learns the meaning of love and honor as he prepares for the fight.
An LGBT+ sports drama that circles around not only the sport of boxing, but in a sense, New Zealand as a whole, this is an emotional roller coaster in which the lead character of Jim is based off the real-life partner of the film’s writer and director. Taking elements of his late partner’s life and constructing a film about finding love not only with a partner, but even finding it within the family and having to overcome the odds in the eyes of his town and in the world of boxing, Ings makes an amazing film debut that brings out some amazing performances from the cast.
Jordan Oosterhof definitely is the film’s breakout star as the embattled Jim, who while training for his first fight as a pro, finds himself embroiled in a world where he is the one who must care for his father outside the ring as well as eventually finding love with Maori boy Wethu, played excellently by Conan Hayes. The tension between Jim and Wethu is the heart of the film as we see these two go from acquaintances to friends to partners. The things the two go through to bond, such as driving recklessly and making music videos, in which Wethu shows off some great singing talent and putting on some wicked Maori makeup, just shows that level of fondness for each other.
Film legend Tim Roth is amazing as Stan, Jim’s tortured father. Stan tries to live his life through Jim, something Ings’ partner had went through as he trained as a boxer because his father put him through something similar. When he’s not training Jim, Stan is constantly drunk and tends to be that father who makes a spectacle of himself or even Jim at times. When he learns Jim’s secret, he seems like he wants to be supportive, but the pressure of the townsfolk causes him to act otherwise. The boxing match itself is a bit anti-climactic, but what we do see is how much Oosterhof trained for the film. He looks like a natural when it comes to the boxing scenes.
Punch is definitely a “fight” but more about life and not just in the ring. Jordan Oosterhof definitely should get noticed here as his performance is the driving force, along with great support from both Tim Roth and Conan Hayes. An inspiring and emotional film debut for filmmaker Welby Ings.
WFG RATING: A
Dark Star Pictures presents a Blueskin Films Ltd. Production in association with Robin Murphy Productions. Director: Welby Ings. Producers: Catherine Fitzgerald and Robin Murphy. Writer: Welby Ings. Cinematography: Matt Henley. Editing: Paul Maxwell.
Cast: Tim Roth, Jordan Oosterhof, Conan Hayes, Abigail Laurent, Sage Klein, Karl Willetts, Matt Hicks, Connor Johnston.
The film will be released in select theaters, on Demand, and Digital on March 10.