When my boyfriend convinced me to go and see Southpaw, I was unconvinced at whether or not I would enjoy it. But being the loving person I am, I agreed to go and see it – partly because everything I’ve seen Jake Gyllenhaal in has been spectacular – and it was definitely the right choice. Southpaw joins the long chain of boxing films to hit our screens, following the story of Billy “The Great” Hope (a slightly clichéd name, I know, and played by none other than Jake Gyllenhaal), who, having risen out of Hells Kitchen and made his way to becoming the world Junior Heavyweight Champion, seems to have it all. A stunning wife (Rachel McAdam’s), and a loving daughter (Oona Lawrence), Hope not only has riches, but a close family and only seems to be on the up. However, after tragedy strikes with the sudden loss of his wife, Hope not only loses his wife, but also himself, his daughter and his career. He’s left to turn to gym trainer Tick Willis (Forest Steven Whitaker) to get him back on track and reunite him with his daughter.
Southpaw does what any good sports film is meant to do; it creates a back story that becomes more important to the audience than the sport itself. And while the audience must accept that any sports film is bound to be clichéd, the work done around the clichés is brilliant. Since I entered this film without even having bothered to watch the trailer, I had no idea about the heart break that was to happen, and the performances from Gyllenhaal and McAdams were so touching that for the first time in years, I was left in tears from a film. The plot itself is engaging and unpredictable – although in hindsight, I feel like I should’ve predicted a lot of it. And despite not being a boxing fan, the boxing scenes were extremely well executed. There weren’t too many for them to become a bit boring, but just the right amount to keep the sport as a predominate part of the story.
Furthermore, the performances from all the actors were outstanding. Gyllenhaal is definitely one of the best actors around and McAdams, despite not being in the film for long, succeeds in being on the audiences mind for most of the film. The thing that most impresses me about Gyllenhaal is his versatility – just last year he was playing the gaunt and creepy lead in Night Crawler, and in the short space of a year he’s bulked out to play the boxer. He adapts to roles so easily that sometimes he isn’t recognisable. The characterisation of his daughter is the perfect mix between the two parents, and Oona Lawrence delivers a brilliant performance of the untrusting daughter. Whitaker’s performance is equally stunning, and the characters themselves have just the right mix of tragedy, comedy and strength.
All in all, even if boxing films aren’t usually your thing, I would definitely recommend seeing Southpaw, even if it is just for Gyllenhaal’s spectacular performance. The film is full of power and one of the most memorable films of the year.