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Punch Drunk Love

I Have A Love In My Life. It Makes Me Stronger Than Anything You Can Imagine 

Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Punch Drunk Love is the sort of film that has a film reviewer sitting in front of a laptop computer thinking “and just how do I condense this without giving the whole film away?” Well, the simple answer is, I can’t.

What I can tell you is that the film features Adam Sandler as Barry Egan, a small-time businessman working from a warehouse who, at the beginning of the film, is feeling somewhat unfulfilled in his life. He has seven sisters who all constantly remind him of his childhood nickname of “gay boy” and his product line includes personalised toilet brushes. Oh, and he has an anger management problem. In short, he’s what most people would call an “eccentric.” The sort of person who calls a sex line in the hope of a decent, innocent conversation (with incredible results). The sort of person who would call a food company to alert them to an oversight in their special air miles offer, and then proceed to buy a lifetime’s supply of pudding from his local supermarket to take advantage of said oversight.

One day, Lena (Watson) walks into Barry’s life, heralded by the almost simultaneous (and completely bizarre) appearance of a harmonium on the side of the road near Barry’s warehouse. Lena is a friend of one of Barry’s sisters, and fell in love with Barry when she saw a photograph of him. And so the most tangible relationship in the entire film is constructed.

You see? This film just can’t be condensed. A tad ironic, perhaps, since it’s one of the shortest films you’ll probably ever see from Magnolia writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, coming in at just over 90 minutes. Sandler is slightly more restrained than usual as the self-effacing Barry, and Emily Watson plays Lena with as much clarity as she can, though for my money, both pale into insignificance thanks to the masterful Philip Seymour Hoffman. He’s not in the film a great deal, but his mere presence on screen makes the whole film worthwhile.

There is no denying that this film is confusing, and I can’t even attempt to explain how you’ll feel when you see it, but that’s precisely why you should see it. It may not be brash and it certainly isn’t formulaic, but it will definitely remind you of one of the reasons cinema exists in the first place - to cause wonder.

Laura Watson

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Screenings of this film:

2002/2003 Summer Term (35mm)