For “La beauté du geste”

Steve Told Us

With a young deaf boxer as his heroine, Japanese filmmaker Sho Miyake has created a benevolent, discreet and melancholy film.

Actress Yukino Kishii plays Keiko, a young deaf boxer.
Actress Yukino Kishii plays Keiko, a young deaf boxer.

Japanese director Sho Miyake’s “The Beauty of the Gesture” (out August 30) joins a long list of boxing films. With a young boxer as its heroine, an old trainer and an old club as its setting, this film could have an air of Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” about it. Keiko (played by Yukino Kishii), although recently licensed as a professional boxer, has other battles to fight. Against her disability (she’s deaf), against the isolation it entails, and against herself.

Small, with short arms, Keiko is not fast, but has energy to spare and “eagle eyes”. Hard-working and determined, she trains hard in an old Tokyo boxing gym, perhaps even the oldest club in the country: weights, bag, ring, sequences… and then there’s the early morning jog, the stretching sessions, all exercises she carefully notes down in a notebook, when she’s not cleaning in a hotel. Keiko shares an apartment with her brother, a guitarist whose music she can’t hear, and worries their mother, distraught by her daughter’s violent passion for sports.

Shot in Tokyo during the pandemic

In as bad health as his club, the sickly old boss is forced to admit to his protégée that he’s going out of business, but struggles to find her a place in another hall. In the ring, Keiko hears neither her coach, who usually writes instructions on a slate, nor the referee, nor the gong. She wins one fight, sends her opponent to hospital, and loses the next in a hall empty of spectators. For it was in December 2020 that Sho Miyake, who until then had directed documentaries, set this drama adapted from the autobiography of boxer Keiko Ogasawara. Shot during the pandemic, with a masked population, “The Beauty of the Gesture” traces the life of a neighborhood, of a city, during the covid state of emergency.

A period during which the young deaf girl is even more isolated from the rest of the world, locked away in her inner world, except for her complicity with her old mentor. “I don’t like being in pain”, confides this lonely soul, torn between not knowing where to train and the desire to give up boxing. It’s a victory over herself that Keiko will have to win in “The Beauty of the Gesture”, a story about learning to live, a film in the image of its heroine, benevolent, discreet and melancholy.

Patrick TARDIT

“La beauté du geste”, a film by Sho Miyake (out August 30).