Thursday 21 November 2019

Boxing clever with Tolstoy's cash tale

Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

Boxing Day

(Club, IFI, 94 minutes)

Director: Bernard Rose Stars: Danny Huston, Matthew Jacobs, Lisa Enos, Jo Farkas


As anyone who had the pleasure of sitting through Immortal Beloved will know, Bernard Rose has something of a patchy career as a director, but there's no doubting his passion for the works of Leo Tolstoy. Apart from directing an adaptation of Anna Karenina in the 1990s, Rose has collaborated with Danny Huston on a series of films based on Tolstoy's short stories.

This one is based on a story called Master and Man, and stars Huston as Basil, an LA property speculator with skewed priorities.

The day after Christmas, he rises early and tells his wife and young children he's going on a trip. He leaves balmy California for snowy Denver, where he hopes to make a killing buying homes that people lost during the property crash.

He has somehow got his hands on a list of tasty bank foreclosures, and has hired a limo driver called Nick (English actor Matthew Jacobs) to drive him around for the day. Basil does not know, nor would he care, that old Nick has problems of his own: he's a recovering alcoholic with a recently collapsed marriage and a profoundly irritating passive/aggressive manner.

During the course of a long day's driving, the two men attempt to rub along, but as night falls and the temperature plummets, Basil's greed drives them to visit one more, far-flung property.

Despite being filmed for next to nothing, Boxing Day is very nice to look at, and has a beguiling rhythm that punctuates the increasingly fraught interactions between mogul and driver. Huston and Jacobs are excellent together, though at times their conversations feel a bit preachy, and stiff.

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