The secret screening at AFI Film Festival was the long awaited boxing drama The Fighter. Mark Wahlberg waited four years to make this movie and it was a lot for me to take. I mean, I can handle death and despair. That’s a good time at the movies. You give me an abusive family and that’s just hopeless.

Mickey Ward (Wahlberg) is an up and coming local boxer. His brother Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale) trains him and his mom, Alice (Melissa Leo) is his manager. Dickie is a crackhead and Alice is turning down paying offers for Mickey out of family loyalty, so they’ve totally got his best interests at heart.

This is really a drug movie disguised as a boxing movie. Dickie is really strung out and he’s destroying his whole family. It’s a slice of life, but a heavy drinking, hard living slice. They could pass, maybe, if you don’t go in their house, but the Wards are really sick and dangerous people. Bale is all Machinist up in here. Dickie is acting up when he’s happy. Imagine how he gets when things aren’t going well.

The threat Alice feels when Mickey gets opportunities on his own is really disturbing. It’s like “I want what’s best for you until you disagree.” It’s the sad story you see so often where someone thinks control is the same as love and respect. You want to kill your sons, keep doing what you’ve been doing the past nine years. How many failures before you accept you’re not good for him?

It’s really depressing for me to see people stuck with the bad decisions of others. There’s no catharsis or triumph over adversity to me. Maybe you get to a point where they clean up and aren’t constantly damaging to you, is existing the best we can offer? No actual relationship, just hope for non-destruction?

It takes another woman, Charlene (Amy Adams) to support Mickey. It’s still scary how dangerous Mickey’s family is. I guess the story is ultimately how they all made peace, but that doesn’t comfort me. Even Mickey’s support gets controlling of him. I guess it all breeds itself over and over. That really messes with me because I needed Mickey to have some trust in his life.

There’s also some boxing. David O. Russell really builds those rousing moments. It’s subtle within that whole family drama, but you are cheering for Mickey. Fights are filmed with TV cameras, only you see them in widescreen. Russell has a few other interesting visual techniques for creating a scene.

The Fighter is good. It tells its story and everyone involved really sells it. It’s a story that’s so hard for me to take, I’ll never watch it again. If I’d known how emotionally abusive his family was, I might have braced myself. It just makes me appreciate that I get to live on my own and be my own person with my family. This behavior is tragic.