We have seen many movies about boxers. This is why whenever we hear about an upcoming one, we either ignore it or configure ourselves into negative mode thinking that it’s going to be same clichéd sports drama, with no surprises at all. However, SOUTHPAW, directed by Antoine Puqua is an exceptional example of how sometimes films such as this, are not only about sport, big money, fight and power; it’s about a person’s life, his struggles and his way up. But it is also about love, family, loss, grief and the presence of one person who, even after death, is still powerful as if the individual never died.
Bill Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) was unbitten in his last forty seven fights until one life changing moment, when he loses the love of his life, the mother to his daughter and beloved wife, Maureen Hope (Rachel McAdams). After an innocent event he was invited to with his wife, Billy has to confront one of the newcomers, Colombian boxer Miguel ‘Magic’ Escobar (Miguel Gomez). Soon after, our hero finds it hard to control himself after allowing Miguel to manipulate him, where he begins the fight with the Colombian. A minute later, a gunshot is heard, and next, we find Maureen laying down on the floor, bleeding and with zero chances to survive. And that will turn Bill Hope’s life upside down; he loses multi-million dollar contracts, house, and the right to his daughter, Leila Hope (masterfully played by Oona Laurence) due to drug and alcohol addiction.
Puqua’s SOUTHPAW is a powerful drama from the beginning to the end. It manages to pull out emotional scenes when it’s necessary, and removes where is no need for it to be present. The scene where Maureen got shot is one of the most brilliantly executed scenes of death, where both McAdams and Gyllenhaal are simply at their best. McAdams’s supporting part is also significant. Even though she physically no longer appears in the movie after Maureen’s death, her influence and spiritual presence is so strong throughout the film that it makes the viewer believe that she is still somewhere there, although can’t be seen but felt. And that is where you can tell how flawlessly the script is written when the death of one of the main characters does not lose their significance, but rather increases after death.
Talking about Gyllenhaal’s ability to transform himself into the character he portrays will be unnecessary. There is certainly no surprises there. As long as the character he plays is developed in such depth, emotionally explosive way, Gyllenhaal without any problem will display it as if it were real. Another part of the film which makes it unlike many others is when Bill asks Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker) to help him to get ready for his next fight, next we see is how his couch helps Hope not physically, but rather psychologically, helping him to be more patient. It reduces the unnecessary part of the film seeing how already well established, maintained and multi time champion gets his training. Oona Laurence, who plays Leila, Hope’s daughter is outstanding. The scene where she emotionally expresses her anger, confusion and abandonment towards her father is one of the best performances delivered by someone so young. And that hopefully won’t be ignored in the awards season.
In conclusion, SOUTHPAW is profound, in-depth executed sport drama which certainly will be noticed by wide audiences. Along with perfectly written script, and well developed characters, SOUTHPAW has many things to offer to viewers: love, dedication, loss, grief, loneliness and redemption. It has the right combination of everything, making this film unlike others that usually fade into darkness after the end title.