Antoine Allen’s short film, Split Decision, follows female pugilist Lola (Priscilla Rosario) as she prepares for her first professional boxing match. Fighting with a father at home who chauvinistically thinks she should know her place as a woman (and who paradoxically wishes he’d had a son instead of a daughter), Lola has the support of her boyfriend Jason (Ariel R. Pacheco), though she is simultaneously carrying on a sexual relationship with a woman behind his back. To say Lola’s life is complicated would be an understatement.
But whose life isn’t a little bit complex? Lola’s is more drama-friendly than average, but she’s just trying to come to terms with her sexuality, her place in her family and her career, which is at that crucial spot that could be the beginning of something great or a premature end. Thus she is a challenged character, but welcome as a strong female protagonist, impressively portrayed by Priscilla Rosario.
Save for some visual issues (contrast seems to shift in some scenes early on, but not just on the image itself, but the letterboxed bars around the image, leaving the impression of an effect added after the letterbox framing was established as opposed to underneath it), the film is technically sound. And while it has elements of drama throughout that run the gamut from spot-on to stilted, it mostly works. It’s only as the film starts to wind down that it seems to go off the drama rails.
The climax of this film, please pardon the pun, is a series of melodramatic punches that just keep on coming, to the detriment of everything before it. Sure, some aspects are more than a little telegraphed early on, but you don’t necessarily expect everything to come together at one moment; by the ending frame, what already felt like a less-than-nuanced story is practically a Jerry Springer episode. I get trying to leave the audience with a memorable ending, but this approaches parody, particularly in the choice the filmmakers make for Lola in those final frames.
Thus, Split Decision has a number of strong elements and works for much of its duration, but the need to try and have every dramatic thread come to a head in one sequence at the end just doesn’t do the story any favors. Other than that, though, for a film that doesn’t always play the subtlest approach, it delivers a powerful experience as Lola navigates her life, sexuality and burgeoning boxing career.
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