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Boxing Helena review
Boxing Helena


Surgeon, Nick Cavanaugh has been taught from a young age, that with hard work and persistence, he can have anything he desires. However, what, or rather, who, he desires is Helena, a model who does not return his affections.

After one night with her, he becomes obsessive, and when she finally attends a party he holds at his former family home, which he has recently come into possession of, due to the death of his mother, he feels that all his dreams have come true. This idea is crushed, however, when she leaves early, with one of his (male) friends. The next day, she calls him to ask him to return her purse to her at the airport, where she's waiting to catch a plane. However, due to a missing address book, she returns to his home with him to search for it. While leaving she is hit by a car, which is where the main body of the film begins.

Nick helps Helena into his home, and operates on her alone. He removes her legs, apparently unnecessarily, essentially trapping her. From here, the film becomes a battle of wills between the two protagonists, Nick and Helena, underscored by the themes of Nick's apparent rejection and obsession with his mother - who bears a startling resemblance to Helena - and the Venus De Milo.

Helena (Sherilyn Fenn), the titular character is beautiful, and she definitely knows it. She seems to enjoy her power, and never doubts it, even during her darkest moments. Even after the accent, when she is rendered a prisoner by her loss of mobility, she rarely expresses regret at the loss of her beauty - only one comment, as I noticed - seeming to regret the loss of her mobility more, while being aware that is still as beautiful as she ever was. Although I have no idea if this was a conscious effect or not, the idea of a wheelchair bound character remaining strong-willed, beautiful, and, in many ways, still in control was fairly cheering.

Helena toys with men, and often plays with fire, teasing and emasculating men physically stronger than her, in the sure knowledge that she is untouchable. In this assumption, she is clearly wrong.

Nick (Julian Sands) is definitely a troubled man. Although clearly strong and competent - he's Cheif Surgeon of a hospital, comes from a wealthy family, has a loving girlfriend, and keeps his rather attractive body in shape - he is insecure enough that the self-possessed Helena finds it easy to get to him. His obsession with her, and, in general, his relationships with women effectively emasculate him, despite everything else. Somewhat admirably, he does manage to stand up to Helena's games, although he never attains the self-control she does.

As mentioned, much of the film consists of the power-play between the two. Clearly, at first the power is with Helena; Nick's obsession with her effectively controls his life, leaving no part of it untouched. Even after the loss of her legs, Helena remains in control of him - after she tells him that she wishes he were dead, he holds a gun to his head, and asks her if that's what she really wants. Her submission is one of the key points of the film, signalling the first time she acknowledges her dependence on him. Nick isn't under her thumb all of the time, however; he makes it clear that she is dependant on him for all her needs, although the fact that she has driven him to it makes it arguable how in-control he is.

Jennifer Chambers Lynch's debut at directing, Boxing Helena does show some skill. There are several effective moments of confusion, which are done very well, when the audience is not sure of what's happening in the film for a few moments, until something suddenly clicks. Most films don't pull this off well, but Boxing Helena does so perfectly. This is slightly let down by the ending, which seems almost like an easy-out from the film. However, on second thought, the ending does explain several parts of the plot, which don't gel together entirely well, although they do nothing about the unexplained plot hole.

The visuals of the film are rather good - Nick's home, and the clothes in the film are all very glamorous and complement Fenn's look - reminiscent of a 1920's silent film actress, almost - perfectly. Sands upper-class English accent also matches this theme.

There's almost a feeling of timelessness in Nick's home, where much of the film takes place. That's interesting, as, as well as the place where he remembers his mother from, it's also the place where he tries to trap Helena; it could almost be interpreted as him trying to create his own world, replacing his childhood obsession with his preoccupied mother with his love for Helena. He seems to be retreating from the world, and the static state of his home underlines that.

Another item of interest, is the somewhat accurate, in my opinion, portrayal of a stalker, Nick's obsession with Helena. It's believable that he'd do anything to keep her, and that's downright scary at times.

The use of the symbolic Venus De Milo throughout the film is also worth noting. The statue is shown at various points in the film, certain differences from it's normal anatomy foreshadowing the changes to Helena.

In summary, Boxing Helena is an interesting portrayal of obsession and desire, with a slightly disappointing ending. However, lots of naked women, and some interesting power-plays make up for it.

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