Review: When life punches Yuma, she punches right back

In La Yuma, the first feature film shot and produced in Nicaragua in 20 years, 18-year-old Yuma (Alma Blanco) discovers boxing as a gateway from her impoverished home life and crime-ridden neighborhood. Yuma is taciturn and wary to a fault.. She’s so guarded that when Ernesto (Gabriel Benavides), a journalism student, expresses a romantic interest in her, she rebuffs him coldly.

Ernesto doesn’t give up easily, though, and gradually, against her nature, Yuma begins to trust him. She also lands a job at a clothing store, and with her boxing training proceeding nicely, things appear to be finally looking up for the typically unlucky teenager. But the members of a neighborhood street gang she occasionally runs with decide to rob a delivery truck, and the consequences threaten to derail everything good Yuma has built for herself.

Director Florence Jaugey, who also co-wrote the script, is clearly fond of her prickly heroine, no matter how petulantly she behaves, and Blanco is good at keeping you engaged with her character’s plight, even when she’s acting in blatantly unlikable ways. La Yuma also excels at portraying lower-class life in Managua and the daily challenges people face just to survive.

But on its way to becoming an inspirational story, La Yuma takes some highly implausible turns, such as having the heroine defeat the reigning boxing champ her first time in the ring. A last-minute subplot involving a traveling circus is just bizarre, and the film leaves many of its supporting characters stranded off screen, their fates unresolved either by carelessness or budgetary constraints . La Yuma will interest anyone searching for a modern-day snapshot of urban life in Nicaragua, but if you’re looking for a female boxing movie, you’re better off watching Girlfight or Million Dollar Baby again.


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