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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 2 May 2011
The death of a child is always shocking on screen. Back in 1931, audiences watching the horror masterpiece Frankenstein sat in shock as the monster threw a young girl into the lake, drowning her. Watching the film now, it still maintains its shock value. John Carpenter's excellent 1976 film Assault On Precinct 13 sees a heartless thug remorselessly shoot a young girl in a brutal scene that I couldn't believe when I saw it. It's difficult and risky portraying the death of a child that ultimately represents the innocence that we all see disappear as we grow older. However, one thing that is rarely even attempted on screen is to follow the killer of a child as a main protagonist. Fritz Lang tried and ultimately succeeded in M, one of the greatest films ever made. That was back in 1931, and it's rarely been tried since.

Boy A stars Andrew Garfield as Eric Wilson, a young man recently released from prison, getting ready to start a new life under the new identity of Jack Burridge. Helped to re-locate and ultimately settle in his new surroundings is Jack's rehabilitation worker Terry (played by the ever-reliable Peter Mullan), who treats Jack almost as a son, having been with him from his troubled beginnings. Finding a new job and making friends at work, he becomes romantically involved with receptionist Michelle (Katie Lyons) and looks like he is slowly being accepted back into society. But Jack is hiding a dark secret from his past, and were this truth ever to be discovered, it would mean the end to his new life and the possibility of a lynch-mob reaction. His childhood is revealed in flashbacks, as he falls in with Philip (Taylor Doherty) at school and begin a strange friendship which ultimately ends in tragedy for both of them.

Boy A's main strength is its refusal to take a moral stance. It just tells the story of a mentally scarred young man who made a terrible decision early in his life that has had an irreversible impact on the rest of it. Garfield is terrific as an almost child-like adult struggling with the need to grow up quickly and face a strange and often hostile world. When he begins his awkward romance with Michelle, his character appears to almost feel guilty about allowing himself to enjoy it, with knowledge of what he's done and the possibility that the truth may be revealed. In a powerful scene, while Jack and Terry are having a drink in a pub, Jack discusses the fate of Philip in prison and wonders why he has been allowed to have a second chance. Garfield is outstanding as I mentioned before, earning a BAFTA for his performance back in 2008. He has come far since this and will play Spider-Man in the upcoming re- imagining of the comic-book hero.

The film has invited comparisons to the infamous 1993 James Bulgar case, in which two youths Robert Thompson and Jon Venables tortured and horrifically murdered the 2-year old child in Liverpool. For an incident that saw one of the most vicious public outcries in British history, the film has taken a massive risk not to stir up a similar controversy. Thankfully, everything in the film is sensitively done, taking time to show the backstory of the main character up to the incident. It also doesn't sugar-coat it either, building up with an almost uncomfortable intensity that tastefully doesn't linger. It also poses some important questions about the legal system, trial-by-media, and how old a person should be before they can take responsibility for their actions. It attempts to answer none of course, letting the film provoke discussion.

It's a fascinating, sad, funny, tragic and unsettling film that is well handled by director John Crowley, and strongly performed by the cast. If only more films would have the balls to tackle such a sensitive subject. Superb.

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on 29 November 2011
Don't expect to bask in a feel good factor when you view this programme. But it is well acted, and great performances from all involved.

The main character Jack, is released from prison with a new identity plus a mentor. Ongoing flashbacks reveal his secondary role in the killing carried out by him and his friend, when mere children themselves. (A certain similarity to another actual 'released into the community' case did come to mind).

As a total aside. Why is it, that in so many TV films the interior lights are on even on the brightest of days? Presumably for camera lighting purposes but it can be very distracting once you notice it!

Anyway, back to Boy A. It is evident that your sympathies are being manipulated through the character development, but that's fine. If he was a right toe rag then it would defeat the moral of the story. The rehabilitation of Jack is carefully constructed and you find yourself hoping it does not fall apart. You see through his eyes, his job and the difficulties in coming to terms with a totally new world. For him, it is full of values and a culture that is as foreign as a distant continent.

I would like to have seen a more imaginative conclusion. But otherwise, a very watchable programme.
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on 27 May 2009
Adapted from the novel by Jonathan Trigell, director John Crowley's British film, BOY A tells the story of 'Jack', a young male finally released from prison for a killing committed with a friend when they were both young. With the assistance of Terry, a (plausibly smug) denizen of the mental health industry, 20-something Jack is established with a whole new identity. Inevitably shy and socially-awkward after spending most of his life under overt institutionalized discipline, Jack struggles to adjust to a modern world that he has never really known, gradually easing into his first job, making friends, and the tentative first steps with a girlfriend.

The story of Jack's past is told through the mechanism of his occasional, tortured flashbacks. As Jack's relationship with his girlfriend intensifies, he wants to disclose his history to her, but is dissuaded by his counsellor Terry, and by the actions of tabloid-mentality vigilantes, who have learned of his release and seek to track him down. Tension mounts palpably as we await the inevitable - the revelation of Jack's past identity - and the shattering consequences for the world that he has so painfully built.

BOY A gives the primary focus of its attention to Jack's present; the initial process of his adjustment is handled with warmth and evokes viewer empathy as he encounters facets of daily-life completely foreign to him after his long years of incarceration. A stranger in a strange land. The past killing is only briefly revealed, and in sketchy detail - which is fortunate, not only because the film's clear emphasis is on who Jack is now, but because the few revelations which we are fed are far and away the weakest element of the film (as the point where the screenplay promulgates the medico-juridical compulsion to account for 'character' through childhood events). Happily, these elements can be ignored for the most part, since thematically the central problematic contemplates the constructed notion of "the dangerous individual", and the application of this psychiatric invention to the all-too-human figure of Jack. The film's unifying thread thus opposes Terry's frequent assertions that Jack has the right to leave his past behind him, versus the lamentably-prevalent bourgeois 'morality' ("think of the children") of the torch-wielding villagers baying for Jack's blood.

A strong soundtrack accompanies the occasionally-indistinct dialogue, and Andrew Garfield as Jack turns in a truly outstanding and authentic début performance. Despite some weak moments, BOY A is a carefully-constructed, powerful drama, and should provoke long-overdue discussion of the harmfulness of our medico-juridical system, along with a questioning of the 19th century mythology of 'The Monster' that is so desperately clung to by contemporary societies. Well worth viewing.
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on 17 January 2012
This film is worth seeing for Andrew garfields fragile and yet charming performance alone. Add to that a well written story about a controversial subject matter and your on to a winner! Now what the hell are you doing reading reviews buy it!
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on 5 June 2010
Whether you are pro rehabilitation, or someone who believes that criminals should remain in prison, this movie will make you question about your own beliefs.
Another question is raised, how does society create young monster? However, this is not thrown in your face, but it is all done in a sublte way.
All in all, it is a must-see movie, with a great cast and an outstanding performance from Andrew Gardield.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 July 2014
Oh no, I’m sure many people will think, not another one of those! And, undoubtedly, with the plethora of 'hard-hitting’ (another favourite adjective) TV dramas focusing on current 'social issues’ it is very difficult to (in any sense) stand above the 'pack’. But this 2007 work by sometime director John Crowley (he also made 2003’s Intermission), which unfortunately had a very limited cinema release, (for me, at least) does just that, telling the story of Andrew Garfield’s (anonymised) child murderer’s attempts to rebuild his life, and being an engrossing and highly cinematic depiction, as well as featuring a number of impressive acting turns.

This was actually Garfield’s first lead 'big screen’ role and, despite the fact that he has gone on to bigger and better things (well, bigger anyway), I have never seen him more impressive (although his turn in TV’s Red Riding Trilogy comes close), playing the nervous, confused, 'socially inept’ (and increasingly paranoid) new entrant ('renamed’ from Eric Wilson to Jack Burridge) into society ('What’s a Panini?’) with a perceptive skill belying his experience. Equally good is Peter Mullan (I wouldn’t expect anything else) as Jack’s reassuring 'social worker’ and confidante, Terry, ('We have to keep looking forward, not back), a man with a troubled past himself – it’s a role (something of a reprise of his magnificent performance in Ken Loach’s My Name is Joe) that Mullan could probably play with his eyes closed, but is no less impressive for that. And, although Crowley’s film (probably) succeeds or fails on the strength of these performances, the director has structured his film (with flashbacks to Eric’s dark past as the 'coerced’ schoolboy) skilfully , thereby enabling us to experience (and empathise with) Jack’s dichotomy of confused guilt. Throughout, cinematographer Rob Hardy provides an impressive mix of claustrophobia and intimacy, whilst Paddy Cunneen’s sparse, haunting score emphasises the (largely) sombre nature of proceedings.

And, although Boy A’s plot is necessarily a little contrived, as Jack (re)discovers friendship (with Shaun Evans’ impressive, cocky work-mate, Chris) and romance (with Kate Lyons’ Michelle) and we can perhaps predict how Jack’s story is likely to end, Crowley (and screen-writer, Mark O’Rowe) always maintain an even-handed and essentially unsentimental, approach to this difficult subject matter. Crowley’s film also makes some telling points around social 'cause and effect’, as well as the predictably hyperbolic (and counterproductive) reaction of the media, placing Boy A in the same category as other important 'social issue’ dramas such as Made In Britain, Nil By Mouth, Scum, etc.
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on 6 October 2013
Particularly given it's interesting storyline (a childhood killer), this film delivers in such an extraordinary way. Initially whilst watching it made me want to hate Andrew Garfield, but then as the storyline progressed - one cannot help but to grow fond of him. An emotional rollercoaster, that delivers right up to the last minute and will leave you with a very mixed set of emotions.
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on 17 October 2013
I found this film on Lovefilm and ordered it thinking it may be hit or miss but I was very pleasantly surprised.
I found the film interesting to see the perspective of a boy released from prison who has to try and forget his past and move on building a new life and new relationships.
This film got me thinking about a topic I had never really spent much time thinking about (the thoughts, feelings and difficulties facing these individuals)
The film very nearly had me in tears at the end as despite what he had been involved with as a child, the character raised emotion that I didn't think I would feel towards such a person. A very taboo subject and perfectly executed for a British film.
I would everyone to watch this film and doubt that it wouldn't raise emotions with people. Please do not think I am condoning any crimes or criminals however it has now made me think how easily these days that kids can be influenced by peers and it brings to light the warped behaviour some children have which stems from their bad upbringings.
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on 30 April 2014
This is a wonderful film. An excellent performance from Andrew Garfield draws you in immediately and I was rooting for his character from the start to the end. The supporting cast, especially Peter Mullan, are also standout. John Crowley deals with a sensitive and horrifying subject with tact and sensitivity to make an engrossing piece of cinema. I haven't seen a film in a long time that made me pause and think about my own prejudices and presumptions in quite the way this one did.
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on 30 November 2013
Ever since I came across this film as being part of Andrew Garfield's collection I fell in love with it.

It has harrowing moments with real tension and emotion throughout - but it shows true lightness, and contrast, and has a romantic theme. A true redemption movie. It you do not enjoy serious films covering sensitive issues I wouldn't recommend this but for those broadening their horizons I cannot recommend this film enough.
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