Southpaw: The Francis Barrett Story

image, francis barrett southpawI’m not really sure what to say about this film. I found it interesting, to be sure, but I can’t escape the feeling that I’m missing some key elements in regards to the subject matter. That bugs me.

Let me explain, this documentary presents the story of boxer Francis Barrett, the first Irish traveler to make it to the Olympics. For the most part it’s a pretty easy story to get into and Francis is a pretty easy guy to get behind, as he’s got the killer combo of being soft spoken, hard-working and talented. The one thing that nags at me is the "Irish traveler" bit. Don’t ask me about them, because I don’t know any more than is presented in this movie and what is presented isn’t very much. Basically they’re itinerant (on some level), poor and, for reasons not revealed in the film, hated passionately by some people in Ireland. To be fair, this information is more than enough to illustrate the challenges Francis faces in his quest (since you can equate it with any other form of discrimination you’re familiar with), but for me, it’s just not enough to satisfy my curiosity on the subject.

Oh well, that’s what the Internet is for….

Other than that personal gripe I have to say this is a pretty good film. It’s an even handed, evenly paced and subdued look at this young man’s life and the forces that shape it. Because of its thoughtful nature, I’m not sure that I’d recommend it for everyone, but it certainly works on enough levels to merit a look.

Originally published in Boston's Weekly Dig (now digBoston) in April 2000.