The feature film debut from writer/director Welby Ings, an Academy Award Nominee for his short film Boy, is this very compelling coming-of-age story that packs a real punch. Set in rural New Zealand and starring Brit import Tim Roth it’s a tale of how small-town homophobia which combined with racism can have explosive consequences.
Teenager Jim () is a promising boxer and a popular figure at the local high school. Aggressively egged on by his single-parent alcoholic father Stan (Tim Roth) who is desperate for his son to achieve all the things he had personally failed at. However, the plan for Jim to have his first professional fight is suddenly put on the back burner when Jim unexpectedly befriends Whetu (Conan Hayes) who is probably the only openly gay young man for miles around.
Whetu is a Maori which is another reason he is picked on mercilessly at school, so he spends most of his time in a cabin in the dunes he has built for himself. As the attraction between the two boys intensifies and Jim starts to explore his sexuality, for the first time in his young life he starts to question if boxing really is the way forward for him after all.
The fact that his Father is now unemployed and in trouble with local heavies who he has wagered every dime on Jim winning the boxing match, means the way out is not going to be easy. Then when Whetu is set upon by two thugs and left for dead, everything changes. One of the most touching scenes is when Stan realizes the importance of Jim’s friendship with Wheto now in hospital and advises his son to hang on to what he really values in life
Ing’s very authentic touching tale is a sharp reminder that even in these so-called liberated days, coming out in communities like this can still be very tough and fraught with danger. He is very fortunate that his two leads have such wonderful chemistry together that makes it even easier to relate to this journey they have started out on. The camera loves them too, so we are bound to see more of them soon.
Roth’s finally nuanced performance adds the perfect dimension that makes it understandable why he found such solace in the bottle until he recognised how his son really needed him.
P.S PUNCH is laying at Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival but then is due to be released in the UK/Europe by Dark Star Pictures
Review : Roger Walker-Dack
Editor in Chief : Queerguru Member of G.A.L.E.C.A. (Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association) and NLGJA The Association of LGBT Journalists. and The Online Film Critics Society. Ex Contributung Editor The Gay Uk &Contributor Edge Media Former CEO and Menswear Designer of Roger Dack Ltd in the UK one of the hardest-working journalists in the business' Michael Goff of Towleroad
Labels: 2023, brief nudity, coming of age, Conan Hayes, Jordan Oosterhof, New Zealand, Punch, Tim Roth, Welby Ings