Punch-Drunk Love

Punch-Drunk Love ★★★★½


Paul Thomas Anderson’s fourth film, ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ is not your run of the mill romantic comedy. It is instead rather a quirky, obscure yet incredibly charming journey of self realisation of self worth. Adam Sandler’s Barry Egan is a small-time business owner weigh volatile tendencies as he struggles to hide his emotions which often get the better of him resulting in anger leading to violence towards inanimate objects, sadness leading to extreme crying and anxiety leading to hiding behind literal corners. This all begins to change as our timid and introverted central character meets love interest Lena Leonard played by Emily Watson. This new found romance however is in jeopardy thanks to a call made to an adult phone-line by Egan. This film at its core is about fitting in and not ever being afraid of who you are or letting others in. To further this, ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ is inherently about trust and what defines a ‘good’ person. Egan can’t trust his sisters to not embarrass or belittle him yet he puts his faith in the phone call which proves ill fated. Is his trust still intact enough to venture into pastures new with Leonard? Following that core message, violence is something we relate to the corrupted and poor character yet Egan is as pure as they come and his violence is only a product of his strong emotional trauma. Paul Thomas Anderson brilliantly merges these concepts of right and wrong to show on a multitude of levels how trust and strength of character can be gained or lost, no matter the scenario. Rounding up the praise, Jon Brion’s enchanting and edgy soundtrack perfectly sets the mood for this tale with an equal balance of melodic tunes with unsettling, anxious songs. Finally, a special shout-out as always to the amazing Phillip Seymour Hoffman who shines in the little screen time he is afforded along with Sandler himself putting in a performance to even rival the recent ‘Uncut Gems’. All the PTA troupes are here with some nifty camera work, deep meanings which aren’t always on surface level and a perfect control over the pacing and intimacy of the picture as a whole. He creates and dissolves tension masterfully as usual and helps to make this ‘rom-com’ memorable and far from that genre boxed-in tag.

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