by Christie Robb
In Catherine Hardwicke’s newest film, the title character, Maxine (Kate Beckinsale), is struggling. She’s got two jobs, but still can’t afford the epilepsy medicine her son Ezra (Christopher Convery) needs. The kid’s dad is no help. He’s a drug-addicted man-child squatting in what looks like an abandoned factory, showing up only to cause trouble and get Maxine fired by one of her managers.
So, when her prisoner father, Max (Brian Cox), is diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and offered compassionate release and house arrest for his last four months if his estranged daughter is up for it, Maxine agrees – but only if he pays rent promptly, stays out of the way, and keeps his exact relationship to her quiet around her kid. Ezra thinks his grandfather died before he was born, and Maxine doesn’t want her ruse upended.
Although Max, a former boxer turned enforcer/probable hit man, was a shit dad whose presence and absence from Maxine’s life during her childhood left her with many emotional scars, we are given to understand that he’s changed in the last 12 years, gotten sober, and been an asset to those prisoners trying to do the same. And, now that he’s back in his daughter’s life, he’s out to make some serious amends.
Much of the film is a thinly-written fairytale—the rekindling of a healthy relationship within an estranged family with minimal effort and no therapy required. Apologies are freely offered. Money is exchanged without strings. But strings are pulled to put Maxine’s career back on track. Whimsical adventures are had. And grandpa bonds with grandson, passing down valuable life lessons to help him navigate tough stuff that mom just doesn’t understand.
See, Ezra is being bullied at school. So, Max, the former boxer, is more than ready to step up and teach him to fight. The last act is interesting. but sometimes as heavy-handed as Max’s fists. And it makes you wonder what kind of legacy Max has passed on to the next generation and whether it’s really that easy to change oneself, much less stop the cycle of generational trauma.