(SCREENED AT THE 2003 PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.) A movie that dares to raise serious questions about God, religion, and the church, and includes NOT ONE joke about pedophilia, BOXED (U.K) has a forbiddingly moral air about it, which is its strength and its weakness. It’s an uncommercial film that, though somewhat awkward in execution, has more integrity than our most of our homegrown “independent” films.Set in Northern Ireland, the plot concerns a band of IRA terrorists who kidnap a Catholic priest so he can hear the final confession of the man they’re about to execute. It takes place mostly in a single room, giving the proceedings an uncomfortably cramped look. The stagy feel to the film makes me wonder if it originated as a play. All the earmarks are there: lengthy speeches, minimal sets, emphasis on dialogue to the detriment of action. BOXED is more apt a title than director Marion Comer probably knew.
Perhaps IRA terrorists really do debate religion with their captives—I don’t know, but here it looks not a little contrived. And yet, uncinematic though it is, the film achieves something quite rare in movies today: it invites viewers—in an utterly sincere and serious manner—to contemplate the place of morality in religion. Unlike the do-it-yourself New Age-ism espoused by Hollywood, which generally stops at affirming that There Is Something Out There, BOXED unapologetically deals with an authentic moral dilemma within the Catholic church, and offers no simple solutions; it’s rather nice to see a film that demands real thought from its viewers. Though not a crowd-pleaser, it’s not supposed to be; and my hat’s off to Comer for wading into thematically dangerous territory.The movie takes its audience seriously, and for all its faults, it deserves to be taken seriously in return. It’s not likely to find an audience overseas, but that’s not a criticism of the film itself.