It’s rare when a film is able to make such an impact that it affects you well after the credits roll. But the truly great, original movies leave you with a genuine emotion, like you’ve experienced something rather than just sitting through a dose of entertainment. Boy A, out now on DVD, is a powerful British drama offering this unique experience.
A 24-year-old is paroled after committing a crime as a child with his only true friend, a bad influence named Philip. Known by the media and the public simply as “Boy A,” he’s able to reinvent himself as Jack Burridge, a shy delivery worker under the supervisor of his Scottish caretaker Terry (Peter Mullan).
Andrew Garfield gives a career-making performance as Jack. He masterfully creates a layered character through not just his guarded delivery, but unspoken expressions, sheepish grins, and worried eyes. You easily feel sorry for him as he awkwardly tries to make new friends or fall in love despite limited social interaction for the majority of his life. Like any person in a new place he struggles to find a niche, but Garfield’s brilliant, subtle mannerisms suggest there’s something else there, something deeper.
Director John Crowley also shows promise as a relatively new filmmaker by utilizing recurring visual themes that recreate situations for young Eric and his alter ego Jack. Aided by a smart script from Mark O’Rowe, the story is told through carefully timed flashbacks that slowly reveal why Jack is so secretive about his violent past. It’s only after you’ve grown to like him that you realize what he’s done.
In that way, the film poses thought-provoking questions about second chances and the audience’s personal beliefs on rehabilitation. If someone is concerned “pure evil” as a child, is there no hope for a normal adult life? At what point has someone paid the price for their crime? When can you forgive someone for their misdeeds?
Boy A doesn’t have mass appeal, but it will resonate with viewers willing to give the film it’s own chance and to slowly develop empathy for its central character.
4.5 out of 5.