More than a film about boxing

(Canscene) — Although Poor Boy’s Game has a suspenseful, climactic prizefight, its real theme is the need for healing relationships between human beings under extremely divisive circumstances. Clement Virgo’s entry is his most powerful yet and places him firmly among Canada’s top directors.

Danny Glover as George Carvery

Set in urban Halifax, the film’s back story is the vicious beating of a black youth during a fight with whites, resulting in brain damage that leaves Charles Carvery (K.C. Collins) almost a human vegetable.

Poor Boy’s Game explores the clashing emotions of Donny Rose (Rossif Sutherland) just released from a nine-year sentence for the attempted murder of Charles and George Carvery (Danny Glover) still bitter about the half life into which his son Charles has been forced.

Bitterness between the Roses and the Carverys and their circles threatens to explode more than once into violence and is based as much on colour as the actual nine-year old crime. The anti-black undercurrent among Halifax’s whites is never far from the surface as I myself learned during a trip there last year.

Donny, who has learned to box in jail, agrees to a challenge match with Ossie Paris (Flex Alexander) an unbeaten black fighter. The match is promoted by Donny’s uncle (Stephen McHattie), a night club owner for whom Donny works as a bouncer. It’s a fight he knows he cannot win but it offers Donnie a purse of $20,000.

It becomes clear to George Carvery that the black community is hoping Ossie Paris will kill Donny in the ring and although still resentful cannot abide the thought. He steers Donny to a veteran trainer he hopes can at least help him stay alive in the ring.

How these emotions play out brings Poor Boy’s Game to a shattering conclusion in a film marked by fine performances by Danny Glover and Rossif Sutherland as men who eventually become ennobled through their actions.

Tanya Lee Williams as Charles’ unyielding mother has unfortunately a relatively small part in which to demonstrate her considerable talents.

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