Tribeca Review: Boy A

2008 Tribeca Film Festival

Everyone who meets Jack Burridge sees a shy, amiable young man with a sweet smile and a quiet unassuming demeanor. But nothing about Jack is as it first appears because he’s hiding a terrible secret from his co-workers and his girlfriend.

Jack Burridge was once Eric Wilson a ten year old boy with no place of refuge. Bullied by older teens, neglected by his distant father and cancer stricken mother, Eric found solace in his friendship with Phillip.

Phillip, a victim of sexual abuse was a young boy seething with fury. Like a gun with the safety off and the trigger cocked he was always one moment away from doing something unthinkable.

The unthinkable is the secret harbored inside of Jack. It’s the murder he and Phillip committed. As ten year old boys they brutally murdered a young girl.

Flashbacks will show us the tension that leads up to the crime. We never really know what Eric’s part in the killing was, but we see him follow his friend Phillip into the abyss.

The adult Jack is mentored by his counselor, Terry, played by Peter Mullan (Trainspotting, Children of Men) who becomes a surrogate father to Jack.

The world the newly named Jack enters is a place he’s been isolated from for fourteen years. He’s more boy than man and struggles to catch up to his peers and to the vastly different world he’s re-entered as a young adult.

Director John Crowely is working from an adaptation of the novel by Jonathan Trigell. He approaches the material with a sure sensitive hand.

His cast is excellent led by Andrew Garfield (The Other Boleyn Girl, Lions for Lambs) a BAFTA nominee for the role of Jack. He effectively portrays the confused boy in a man’s body. His Jack wants to become part of the world even as the lie he’s living eats away at him. He’s well on his way to becoming the man he wants to be when the past rears its ugly head.

Peter Mullan does a fine turn as the father figure who takes pride in the progress of his charge. Alfie Owen and Peter Doherty, two very good young actors portray Eric and Phillip.

The film won a jury prize at the Berlin International Film Festival and makes it US debut at the Tribeca Film Festival.

I believe there’s an audience for this film. It’s a beautifully realized exploration of a difficult subject. The idea of second chances isn’t an unusual one. But when applied to this story of two young boys murdering a young girl, it takes on a new slant.

Can the child be held in prison then released as a man and given that second chance? Can he find redemption and free himself from his past?

Boy A is a powerful film that won’t let go of you when the credits roll. It stays with you and makes you think.

Grade: A+