“Boxing Day” is the latest in a series of film parables from director Bernard Rose, all based on stories written by Leo Tolstoy. Basil, played by Rose’s frequent collaborator Danny Huston is a businessman planning to buy and sell repossessed homes for a profit. This story, based Tolstoy’s Master And Man, centres around the relationship that develops between Basil and his chauffeur, Nick, played by Matthew Jacobs.
Basil is pompous, confident and motivated by greed but as the film goes on, this outward demeanour seems to be a flimsy veil for his self-doubt and vulnerability. The Chauffeur, Nick, has mischief and anger, in equal measure, bubbling just under the surface and the two men hover perilously on the brink of a serious clash. Their road trip continues, the story explores capitalism and Basil starts to remind me of one of the bankers I recently saw on television, being grilled as part of the financial crisis inquiry commission in the US, revealing them to be seemingly without morals or humanity. There is an uncomfortable power balance in the car, Rose deftly goads the audience in his distinctive way and the result is tense and compelling.
The cold desolate scenery underlines a sense of stark existentialism and runs in parallel with the characters’ internal isolation. As they travel higher into the mountains around Denver, the weather worsens and they drive out of reach of mobile phone and satnav signals. As a result the power balance is eventually restored and social status becomes immaterial as their common mortality is brought into focus.
Boxing Day follows IvansXTC and The Kreutzer Sonata, in a series which covers subjects like marital jealousy, the shallowness of Hollywood, self-interest, materialism and drug addiction. Rose shoots in digital which adds to the impression of immediacy already achieved through the frankness of dialogue and the rawness of performances.
Rose is also responsible for the 1992 film Candyman which I have seen, even though I am a wimp who avoids horror films. I actually enjoyed that too and I’ve just remembered that you mustn’t say “Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman!” whoops…
Bernard Rose’s films are sometimes explicit, often excruciating but always exhilarating and memorable. Boxing Day is thought provoking and highly recommended.
Rating: 5 stars