Every year a bunch of ill assorted Oxford undergraduates train to take part in various boxing matches against Cambridge students in order to earn their ‘Oxford Blues’. This cheap looking, clunky, soundtrack-heavy documentary initially seems to be as inviting as the 1984 Rob Lowe vehicle, Oxford Blues. Then the many charms of Stevan Riley’s amiable, amateurish but totally compelling film come into play. Shot purely from the viewpoint of the Oxford hopefuls and their ever optimistic coach this is a film driven by its off centre subjects. There’s the working class loner who just wants to impress his Judo loving dad. There’s the gifted posh boy singer who can’t resist a pointless challenge. There’s the angry kid who’s been brought up by a single mum and there’s the obsessive American astrophysicist straight out of the military who is holding down (quite bizarrely) a hardon for Jesus. You start really caring for these boys as they are slowly animalised under the dreaming spires.
The finale grips like a knife, and like Riley’s previous film short documentary Rave Against the Machine (following a group of musicians as they try to survive the four year siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s) Blue Blood usurps all your expectations and leaves you with a little tear to punch away on that padded glove. C’mon the blues.