An observational doc about a motley bunch of Oxford students fighting for a coveted place in the university boxing team is hardly an ingratiating premise for a film. However, by the time ‘Blue Blood’ gathers pace after an unsure and unfocused start, director Stevan Riley succeeds in offering a restrained and insightful portrait of the personalities behind personal glories won and lost within the pressures of such an institutional hot-house. Characters are compelling: God-fearing and loud-mouthed Justin is an astrophysics student and a graduate of the US Naval Academy; well-spoken Charlie juggles boxing with an over-bearing mother and singing opera; and biochemist Fred seemingly substitutes a punch-bag for an absent father. Ample music from Radiohead to Dylan is at best used counter-intuitively and at worst intrusively, and the film’s narrative largely has pace and economy without recourse to voiceover. Unlike many sports films, the build-up to victory or loss is not prolonged or over-stated and the balance between the personal and the sporting is fair. All in all, a very English affair.
Friday May 11 2007