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  Boy A

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Peter Mullan, Shaun Evans, Jeremy Swift

Directed by: John Crowley

Produced by: Lynn Horsford

Written by: Mark O'Rowe

Distributor: The Weinstein Company


As seen at the 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival:


     The surreally-lit opening moments of Boy A, in which a young man gleefully opens a package of Nike shoes handed to him by an older figure sitting opposite him at a barren table, are nothing short of transfixing in their mysterious nature. While literally blinded by the sense of hope presented by lightly tinted film-stock, there is a dark undercurrent that runs through the frames. When the viewer discovers that the man onscreen, Jack Burridge (Andrew Garfield), is actually an ex-con who was prison-sentenced in a high-profile child-murder case and the person sitting across from him is Terry (Peter Mullan), a worker who helps criminals keep under the radar while readjusting to civilian life, the experience becomes downright otherworldly. Yes, there’s an undeniable realism to Boy A—such is what allows the viewer to buy into Jack’s past and its accompanying sense of tragedy—but the movie is largely told through innate feelings. Intimately framed from Jack’s claustrophobic emotional perspective, the movie whizzes by in a flurry, nearly coming across as a work of abstract art because it taps into the viewer’s senses in ways that a conventional story of the like would never think to try. The movie finds unexpected power in exploring ideas that similar material rarely has before, particularly in a story-thread involving a woman Jack begins to fall for and in passages in which Jack’s safety is threatened by those who believe he got off too easily for his crime.

     Despite the often-condemnable senses of morality presented by previous films with similar premises, Boy A proves anything but the standard exercise in liberal-guilt that forces its audience to sympathize with a horrible criminal. The picture rightly doesn’t allow the viewer to know enough about Jack’s crime for them to judge him during its first-act and then shows what really happened once they come to understand Jack on a personal level. In fact, the tragic details that surface regarding Jack’s crime ultimately lead the viewer to realize that the man isn’t a traditional ex-con in the slightest. He becomes sympathetic for his own unexploited character values. And this sympathy is only furthered when the viewer learns of Jack’s ultimate fate in an unpredictable and heart-stopping third-act; the material is touching and maddening and yet completely unchangeable, riveting in its rattling inevitability. Coupling gut-wrenching emotion with hints of wispy surrealism, director John Crowley and lead actors Garfield and Mullan ensure that the audience is constantly both engrossed in their film’s material and subsequently reflecting upon it. For its original take on the traditional ex-con story and its supremely affecting characters, Boy A may very well come to be known as a minor-masterpiece if it manages to reach the sizable audience that it deserves.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 7.23.2008

Screened on: 6.29.2008 at the Landmark in West Los Angeles, CA.


Boy A is rated R and runs 100 minutes.

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