The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - CATCH THE FAIR ONE | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - CATCH THE FAIR ONE

New to Netflix - CATCH THE FAIR ONE
A female boxer searches for her missing sister.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Josef Kubota Wladyka

Starring: Kali Reis, Daniel Henshall, Tiffany Chu, Michael Drayer, Lisa Emery, Kimberly Guerrero, Kevin Dunn

catch the fair one poster

Perhaps the sport which best serves cinema is boxing. Within a medium where representation of sport is often ill fated - maybe because narrative cinema is structured by plot and signalled outcomes, whereas sport works within ephemeral circumstances of chance and opportunity - boxing takes home the belt. I think this is because the sight of two people hitting each other over and over until the other falls down - dancing, dodging, diving - is inherently cinematic (after all, the development of action cinema can be traced directly back to Douglas Fairbanks ushering in the swashbuckling era, which is the same as boxing but with rapiers). Yet boxing also works in cinema because of the very concentration of the sport, the gladiatorial compaction of two people in a square space sharing a singular purpose: in its quintessential simplicity, boxing has rich capacities for metaphor. The American Dream is microcosmed in the boxing film, with its prole protagonists undergoing the physical trials, the hardest of knocks, to eventually achieve success and celebration.

catch the fair one review

Josef Kubota Wladyka and Kali Reis’ incendiary Catch the Fair One (Wladyka directs Reis, writing a screenplay from her story) is located within the Native American community of Buffalo (speaking of cinematic, surely the most ugly/beautiful city in the world?), and centres on Reis’ Kaylee. Kaylee is an ex-champion boxer, who still trains between thankless shifts at a short order diner, and restless nights in a cramped hostel. We see kids thrill at spotting their favourite boxer, and witness Kaylee’s physical formidability, and we wonder what preceding knock down has led her to this insalubrious state of affairs.

In Catch the Fair One’s early scenes, the mottle shaded mise-en-scene is crammed: the diner, the hostel, everywhere Kaylee goes is chock full of people. She is suffocated by the insolence of customers, the ignominy of sharing a mass shower with strangers. In the ring, however, she is free. Reis is herself one of the greatest welterweight fighters in the world, and the sparring sequences are given authenticity by her trained choreography. The camera always objectifies, and the sight of Reis working the ring, with her tattoos, piercings, and tight knots of muscle, is vivid spectacle. Society inevitably enforces hegemonies of race and class structures, but the ring is a meritocracy.

catch the fair one review

Although not entirely free, however, as it transpires that Kaylee’s teenaged sister has gone missing at some point. Weeta is the reason why Kaylee meets with dodgy people in vans at night seeking information, spars against massive heavyweight blokes and sleeps with a razor embedded in her cheek (enforced pain and suffering is Catch the Fair One’s central motif). In flashback we see Kaylee’s sister leave the gym where her sister trains, never to be seen again; in the support groups Kaylee skulks about in we get an overwhelming impression of people simply disappearing.

The film intimates, in a similar manner to the recent Don’t Say Its Name, that Weeta’s ethnicity and social class render her unimportant to the authorities, a deeply frightening real life issue. It falls to Kaylee to locate her sister within the dark underworld of human trafficking, and her ensuing undercover operation is as raw as a bare-knuckle bar brawl - my notes cite Requiem for a Dream, and it turns out that Aronofsky, the cinematic De Sade of physically punishing protagonists, is Catch the Fair One’s executive producer. Every graphic moment is justified in the film, but be warned!

catch the fair one review

When Kaylee does catch up with the slavers who may or may not have abducted Weeta, the framing switches to wide spaces to best depict an open countryside far from the blotched confines of the city. This is too much space, space people can easily disappear in, space where there is nowhere to hide. The sprawling houses which these people live in are obscenely palatial, too, with soft amber lighting up dense mahogany and kitchens larger than the diner where Kaylee scrapes a living. We are offered a bitter truth about capitalism, and the exploitation inherent in its avaricious ideologies: for some people to be this rich, a lot of others need to be that poor. You’ll want to punch someone yourself (Or worse. I’m not a violent person but human traffickers do not deserve to be alive. The world would simply be better off without them). Human beings are bought and sold, the bodies of impoverished women - fighting for the edification of crowds, forced into the sex trade - are commodified. The only recourse is to fight back, to hit harder than the blows you receive. Forever and ever. Until one day you too are knocked down, and the count is final.

Catch the Fair One is on Netflix UK/ROI now.