Themes of hardship highlighted in hit Drama

Jungleland follows the story of failed boxer Stanley, as he navigates the struggles of relationship and abuse

Frank Gallagi, Staff Writer

Jungleland is an emotionally raw film that follows the journey of three lost souls, Stanley, Lion, and Sky, as they travel across the country in hopes of escaping their pasts and finding purpose in their lives. In Jungleland, director Max Winkler, painstakingly creates a gritty and unforgiving world shrouded by a cast of characters and events that focus on the themes of family, failure, redemption, corruption, and love.

Stanley and Lion Kaminski, played by Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell, command the screen as two brothers whose bond has endured years of abusive relationships, starting with their parent’s abandonment, unthinkable dreams, ranging from world boxing championships to dry cleaning for the stars, as well as the usual set of unfortunate circumstances. The performances by Hunnam and O’Connell are incredible. You feel the pain and suffering each have with an acute empathy and hopes that they will win every bad hand that is dealt them through the hour and a half train wreck.

Lion, wounded, bloody, and with a rat tail, is a tough competitor whose bodily bruises reflect the years of abuse life has thrown him. Boxing is his salvation, and he wants desperately to use his skills in the ring, or more accurately, back alley and basement fight clubs to set himself and his brother up for a better life. Knowing a sanctioned boxing championship is out of the question, he desires ultimately to make an honest living, open a dry-cleaning business, and keep Stanley and him out of harm’s way.

Stanley’s aspirations are much different, and his innate capacity for failure is overwhelming. While his love for Lion is unquestionable, he cannot beat his addiction to losing. His consistency of failure drags Lion, as well as everyone else around him, down. Whether it is getting Lion disqualified from becoming a pro boxer or taking a risky bet that puts their lives in danger, Stanley continually fails. However, Lion is there for him every step, and misstep, along the way. At their core, Stanley and Lion are good men, who you care deeply about and want so desperately to get out of the underbelly of the world in which they live.

An early turning point in the movie is the introduction of Sky, a young runaway whose reasons for her joining the two men are unknown. Played by Jessica Barden, Sky is a conflicted character subject to violent emotional swings that bring another level of complexity to Stanley and Lion’s life. Sky provides much-needed clarity to Lion and shows him a possible path to love while causing further destruction to Stanley’s spiraling life. The three are bound by their desperation. Winkler uses most of their familial ties to create a unique and life-altering relationship.

The trailers for Jungleland make this film look like a boxing movie, but it is a far cry from one. The fight scenes are intense, bloody, and raw, and the viewer is hit hard by the harsh realities these characters are fighting against and for. Jungleland is a journey of human tragedy and the search for deliverance. I highly recommend this movie with a keen nod to the incredible dialogue, acting, and grit.