American comedian Rich Hall once famously quipped that, ”a good friend will help you move house, but a really great friend will help you move the body”.
Such is the premise of Emma Nutland and Peter Lannon’s meditation on the fragile nature of friendship and how far you can push it.
A boxing ring is set up in the space for the twenty three year olds to slug it out, replete with low level lighting, dry ice and frenzied voiceover, manufacturing the pre-match anticipation, with cheesy pop music pumping out (the theme from Rocky for Emma and ‘The One and Only’ by Chesney Hawkes for Peter, respectively)- so authentically rendered, it is impossible not to get caught up in the spectacle.
After sparring and dancing around each other for a bit, it is clear that the punches will be verbal, and a series of personal childish attacks are spat out, both on each other’s appearance (”Emma’s face is like the moon coming out”, countered by ”Pete’s like a little escaped lab rat”) and tastes, and then things turn nastier- more personal- such as stories of being caught masturbating, or sexts on mobile phones being read out to friends. It is vicious, brutal, and not a little bit toe-curling to witness.
When the broad laughs and shower of insults subside, however, a more thoughtful side to Lannon’s character is revealed. He muses on how pathetic it was that when Nutland got punched by a stranger in the city centre, that his instant response was to crack a puerile joke, instead of empathising or ensuring she wasn’t badly injured. His realisation, an epiphany of sorts, that masculinity’s limitations made him do it, is touching to watch. His regret in not helping Nutland is palpable. Nutland’s anger, meanwhile, seems rooted in something more tangible- of being petite, attractive and blonde- sadly considered ‘fair game’ by a misogynist mind-set.
The pair agree to a kind of truce, with Lannon deciding (if you don’t want to know the results, read no further…) that Nutland should be declared the winner, as he was, at times, less than a friend to her.
This is the Facebook/ Twitter generation, writ large, of ”too much information” and a claustrophobic sense of our every move captured on camera and scrutinised. The pair’s unpleasantries and banter seem like a cry for help, what psychologists term ”transference”, or pushing your own issues onto others. It is the human need for affirmation in hair pulling or name-calling, which starts from the moment you play kiss-chase in the school playground.
It is refreshing to see a man and woman dissect a relationship with seemingly no sexual component to it. Ultimately, a couple of vulnerable friends are left standing alone, bearing witness to the mistakes they have made along the way, and understanding that navigating through the manholes and banana skins of adulthood is much easier – if no less cringeworthy- with your best friend by your side.