Boxing Helena

Director: Jennifer Lynch
Screenwriters: Jennifer Lynch

Institute History

  • 1993 Sundance Film Festival


It is rare for an independent film to receive publicity before release, but Boxing Helena was so besieged by contract negotiations and legal suits that even getting it to the screen is a remarkable achievement. If fate had anything to do with delaying the project until the perfect cast and crew could be assembled, the result is truly worth the wait. In her directorial debut, Jennifer Lynch makes a strong impression with a deeply complex and disturbing, as well as funny, black comedy.

Nick Cavanaugh, a world-class surgeon, is hopelessly infatuated with the alluring Helena, who uses her sexuality to humiliate men. After his mother's death, Nick moves into her mansion, where a beautiful statue of Venus in the foyer looks on as he lives out his perverse sexual fantasies and comes to terms with his feelings for his mother. Nick finds a most unusual way of transforming Helena into his own Venus de Milo.

Boxing Helena is a testimony to obsession, as much a love story as a horror story. Love is inviting and exciting, but also cruel and vicious. In the portrait Lynch paints, love appears to be about giving and taking, but no limits are set. The film is wonderfully allegorical. Operating on the mythical, personal and political levels, it is a painstakingly detailed vision as interesting metaphorically as is the actual story. Sherilyn Fenn endows Helena with an ice-princess quality so sharp that she pierces the screen. Julian Sands's Nick is handsome, smart and talented, but also weak and pitiful. Sands's ability to evoke such a mix of beauty and ugliness anchors the film, and marks this as perhaps his best performance to date. The production qualities echo this contradiction, for rarely does danger lurks in such peaceful and beautiful sets, lighting and costumes. Since she's debuted with a film so strange and special, there's no telling where Lynch's mind may take her next.

Friday Jan 22 6:00 pm
Tower Theatre. Salt lake City

Saturday Jan 23 10:30 pm
Holiday Village Cinema III

Tuesday Jan 26 1:30 pm
Holiday Village Cinema III

Friday Jan 29 4:00 pm
Egyptian Theatre

Saturday Jan 30 3:00 pm
Prospector Square Theatre


— Catherine Schulman

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]