A tough-as-nails boxing drama in the vein of Raging Bull, German filmmaker Barbara Ott’s Kids Run is a captivating portrait of precarity that pulls no punches.
A heady blend of social realism and hardscrabble boxing drama, Kids Run is a powerful slice-of-life fight flick not for the faint-of-heart. Newcomer Jannis Niewöhner gives a fascinating, difficult performance as Andi, a desperate young father-of-three who enters an amateur boxing competition in the hope of paying off his escalating debts. Trapped in a wintry working-class wasteland, Andi and his ilk know only struggle and hardship, not so much living on the brink of disaster as skating constantly along the edge of it. The prize – 5,000 euros – offers less of a path out than a way to simply stay afloat.
Making her feature debut, German filmmaker Barbara Ott’s work here is sensitive but unflinching, never sugar-coating Andi’s bleak circumstances nor making allowances for his violent, hair-trigger personality. Ott commendably shirks the familiar rhythms of the boxing-movie genre – don’t expect a Rocky-esque climactic showdown here. As with British social-realists like Ken Loach, Andrea Arnold and Mike Leigh, Ott’s vision of a hand-to-mouth existence is at times a tough watch, but coloured with vivid, lived-in performances that add a touch of grace to even the toughest situations. — Tom Augustine
About the Filmmaker
Born in 1983 on the German-Czech border, Barbara Ott took a degree in fiction directing at the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg. Her graduation film Sunny (2013) screened successfully at national and international festivals and received numerous awards. Kids Run is her directorial feature debut.