Daughter wails to daddy, "you've got issues!""About what?"
"Me and my vagina."
Nothing tests a father like his adolescing girl. In Guy Bennett's Punch, father and daughter make for a way too tight dyad. No siblings or mom trouble their Kitsilano domestic bliss. It's important that this is a Kitsilano movie, I think, because Ariel's home schooling and the nearby neighbourhood of deadbeats and doob smokers are taken for granted.
Dad might also be a particularly BC character. As Michael Riley plays him, he's a doctor with a conservative demeanour but an unconventional life, a buttoned-down ex-hippie. When he brings a woman home to meet Ariel (Sonja Bennett), he acts like he's only dimly aware of the shitstorm he's about to unleash.
In one of the film's best scenes, Ariel freaks out on poor mousy Mary and decks her. But, in the first of this film's unconvincing coincidences, Mary's sister Julie makes her living decking other women in a seedy bar. Topless.
So the stage is set for a kick-ass confrontation.
Which never really happens, or doesn't happen in the expected way or in an interesting variation. Instead, Punch wanders down narrative dead ends, alternating strong scenes with wasted ones. Riley and Bennett turn in strong, focused performances, but the wayward script keeps wrong-footing them.
It's like this film can't decide if it wants to be Blue Crush or Sweetie. It could work as either, or even both, but instead it chooses the mushy middle. firstname.lastname@example.org
PUNCH written and directed by Guy Bennett, produced by Stephen Hegyes, with Michael Riley, Sonja Bennett, Marcia Laskowski and Meredith McGeachie. 90 minutes. A Brightlight/ThinkFilm production. Opens Friday (February 7). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 92. Rating: NN