The film does not start out terribly promisingly the build-up is maddeningly slow. The dialogue falls deadeningly flat and Jennifer Chambers Lynchs camera set-ups seem exasperatingly bland. Just when one feels like giving up on Boxing Helena completely, it starts to develop in most unusual ways. One thing that makes the film interesting is its constant refusal to conform to any generic expectations. It reminds of similar dark romantic obsession films like Misery (1990), Pedro Almodovars Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down (1990) and The Skin I Live In (2011) and particularly The Collector (1965). [Although the ultimate film about love, obsession and amputation must be the incredibly perverse silent classic The Unknown (1927)]. However, Jennifer Chambers Lynch is not interested in the thriller aspects at all there is only one scene that fitfully concentrates on Sherilyn Fenns attempts to escape and that is it. She also tastefully shies away from giving us a freakshow as her old man would be wont to do we never, for instance, actually see Helenas limbless stumps.
In fact, considering its subject matter, Boxing Helena is almost unbelievably tasteful. The most Jennifer Chambers Lynch manages is a couple of shocks upon the revelation of each of Helenas progressive stages of limblessness but all one sees of that is Sherilyn Fenn without her arms in her sleeves or legs beneath her night-gown. Lynch pere would have undoubtedly jumped in with scenes of Sherilyn Fenn trying to escape by crawling on her limbless stumps or of Julian Sands making love to her amputated body oddly enough David Lynch did direct his own film about a limbless woman with The Amputee (1974) but Jennifer has a very different film than that in mind. Slowly the film develops through Sherilyn Fenns refusal to need Julian Sands and his self-debasing need to have her accept him to the surprising point where, in one startling dream scene, Sherilyn Fenn develops limbs again and tells him how he ought to treat a woman. It is a scene that contains some great writing from Jennifer Chambers Lynch. What starts out to be a perverse story about twisted sexual obsession, abduction and enforced surgery contrarily turns out to be a treatise on how women really want to be treated by men.
Jennifer Chambers Lynch is not sure how to end the film and uses one of the corniest devices in the book the it-was-all-a-dream ending which produced howls of outrage from the films critics. Although, in truth, it does not work too badly as a device. Lynchs main problem with the film though is her cast. Kim Basinger, who has a respectable lineage in boundary-pushing screen erotica, would have been great, but Lynch has to make do with Sherilyn Fenn. Fenn (who came to attention in David Lynchs tv series Twin Peaks [1990-1]) is a terrible non-actress but here she is at least the most convincing she has appeared in a role, although that is more due to Jennifer Lynchs characterisation. Such, on the other hand, could not be said for Julian Sandss squirmingly introverted performance, which is just awful.
Boxing Helena was considered a flop and it was fifteen years before Jennifer Chambers Lynch was able to mount another directorial outing with Surveillance (2008), a mind-bender about the quest for truth in a series of serial killing; Hisss (2010) about a snake goddess that takes on human form; and Chained (2012) about a serial killer and his young male companion.
Film online in several parts beginning here:-