Director: John Crowley
Writers: Mark O'Rowe
Cinematographer: Rob Hardy
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Peter Mullan, Katie Lyons
Studio/Run Time: The Weinstein Company, 100 mins.
When Jack Burridge was young, he and his best friend separated themselves from the world. Bullied at school and battered at home, they found reprieve in an all-encompassing friendship that made life bearable. But their escape was easily threatened, and when a girl from school tormented them, they killed her mercilessly. Their crimes made them town pariahs, and Jack (played by Andrew Garfield) became known in court as Boy A, one of the psychopathic child murderers that everyone could project their own worst fears onto.
While Boy A’s
background is a retread of Peter Jackson’s Heavenly
Creatures, its main focus is what happens to Jack when he has served out
his sentence and returns to society. How
much do our actions as children follow us and determine who we are as
adults? Ten years down the line, can
those sins of our youth be truly forgiven or do they forever remain an
albatross around our necks?
present day, Jack is helped out by Terry (Peter Mullan), who works to give him a
job and a life while making sure that he never reveals his true name or
A is still enough of a pariah
to warrant the hatred of the entire city, after all. Jack struggles to situate
himself, but soon obtains a new job, girlfriend and life until someone
leaks his real identity.
Boy A sets an effectively dark mood, brooding over the death that hangs over its head. This comes partially from John Crowley’s stark setting and purposely unobtrusive directing, but just as much of the film’s force comes from its actors. Garfield’s performance as an uncertain youth in an impossible position holds the film together. Garfield and Mullan both give subdued performances that never feel like mugging or chewing the scenery—they’re powerful in the same silent way as the film itself. Crowley tells his story through the characters rather than style, and the result is convincing. Even when Boy A goes to a few truly unbelievable or cliché places, its leads are able to hold things together.
And Boy A does have its trite, dumb film moments as well as a plot that, when all things are considered, doesn’t quite make sense. But since it’s ultimately a parable rather than a film set strictly in reality, this never detracts from the whole. Taken as the meditation on the past that it is, Boy A is a moving look at the best and worst of how humans can treat one another.