First Match – Review

Genre Drama
Directed by Olivia Newman
Starring Elvire Emmanuel, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Colman Domingo, Jharrel Jerome, Jared Kemp
Released on March 12, 2018 (South by Southwest), March 30, 2018 (Netflix)
Duration 102 minutes
Flixxpanda Rating 8/10
Channel Netflix

A movie that bought me to tears, First Match is a beautifully shot cinematic masterpiece. It’s so far from a movie just about wrestling, although, there is a lot of that, but it’s so so much more.

Netflix’s latest movie, First Match the stunning Elvire Emanuelle as main protagonist Monique, shows in stark clarity the life of a struggling young woman desperate to establish a relationship with an estranged biological father, Darrel (Yahya Adbul-Mateen II)

Monique is a really complex character. She’s been moved from foster home to foster home her entire life, never having a permanent family or home. I believe she thinks that if she starts a family with her dad, it might be more permanent. She’s been hardened by misery and has this really hard exterior that you see being broken away only a few times. One of the most precious moments in the film is when the camera zooms in on her shadow of a smile when her dad hands her new shoes.

Monique joins the high school boys’ wrestling team to impress her father who was a wrestling champion when he was young. He does take an interest in her if only as a gateway to force her to participate in underground fights. She ends up making terrible decisions. I believe if she was more accepting of help, she would have listened to her foster mother, Lucila (Kim Ramirez). But disdain towards kindness and opening up seem like some of her most prominent flaws. She’s distrustful and can be quite rude a lot of the time.

Darrel is one of those people who seem more or less unaffected by anything that goes on around them or anything they do themselves. He’s detached and has sort of just stopped even trying to be a good person. It feels like too much has gone wrong for him to save himself. He’s apathetic and a far cry from what Monique builds him up to be.

Monique doesn’t have any friends save for one, Omari (Jharrel Jerome) who seems like a perfect fit for her. He never pressures her and know how to deal with her outbursts, mood swings and is an overall blessing. While the boys on the wrestling team are antagonistic at first, they do consider her one of their own soon enough. Further the boys’ team coach (Colman Domingo) is the best role model or parental figure anyone could have, he know just when to push and when to let go. He listens to Monique and lets her create an image of what her life could be like.

I think the First Match is a wonderful film that showcases how someone with an extremely hardened shell and miserable life can still show streaks of tenderness and vulnerability. I loved it, I think you will too.

Video Credit – Netflix | YouTube

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