Southpaw

If ever an English-language film needed English subtitles it's this involving documentary about the young Irish boxer Francis Barrett. Barrett and many of filmmaker Liam McGrath's other interviewees have an interesting story to tell, but speak with such heavy brogues that crucial statements are incomprehensible to any but the most practiced — or Irish...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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If ever an English-language film needed English subtitles it's this involving documentary about the young Irish boxer Francis Barrett. Barrett and many of filmmaker Liam McGrath's other interviewees have an interesting story to tell, but speak with such heavy brogues

that crucial statements are incomprehensible to any but the most practiced — or Irish — ears. But the regional dialect that makes Barrett's story occasionally difficult to follow also gives it considerable flavor: Francis is a Traveller, a member of the small and often very poor

itinerant ethnic group derisively referred to as "Irish Gypsies." Travellers share distinct social customs and speak their own language, but what really sets them apart is mainstream Irish culture's age-old animosity towards them. Nineteen-year-old Barrett is no exception: He and his huge family

live in a run-down trailer park in the Hillside area of Galway, and his determination to graduate from local boxing club amateur to Olympic athlete representing all of Ireland in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games was, in large part, a bid for respect. McGrath uses interviews with Barrett, his beloved

trainer/father-figure Chick Gillen and various friends and family, along with bits of video, to reconstruct Barrett's meteoric rise from spat-upon Traveller to national hero, then picks up the story himself with Barrett's return from Atlanta. The film then becomes more a tribute to courageous

perseverance than glory, as Barrett moves to London, marries his sweetheart, fathers a child and sets his sights on the English and Irish ABA titles and, ultimately, the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. He loses just as often as he wins, lending his story more suspense — and poignancy — than

it might otherwise have.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: If ever an English-language film needed English subtitles it's this involving documentary about the young Irish boxer Francis Barrett. Barrett and many of filmmaker Liam McGrath's other interviewees have an interesting story to tell, but speak with such he… (more)

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