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    Boy A

    Trouble man

    "Boy A" is about a man who went into prison a boy and comes out a target for other people's fears.


    I once went deep-sea fishing in the Hawaiian Islands. We caught a tuna, and as the stressed fish fought for its life on deck, it went from silver to violet to pink to yellow to gray — all in about three seconds. It suffered heroically by suffering matter-of-factly, without self-pity or any notion of a better fate — being as it was a fish. I remember this, by the way, through the haze and misery of seasickness, but it's not something you easily forget.

    BOY A
    Directed by: John Crowley.
    Written by: Mark O'Rowe.
    Adapted from a novel by: Jonathan Trigell.
    Cast: Andrew Garfield, Peter Mullan, Siobhan Finneran, Alfie Owen, Victoria Brazier, Skye Bennett.
    Cinematography: Rob Hardy.
    Edited by: Lucia Zucchetti.
    Film Forum 209 West Houston St. (between 6th and 7th Ave.) (212) 727-8100

    Queasiness aside, Andrew Garfield ("Lions for Lambs," "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus") reminds me of that dying tuna. As the eponymous Boy A, his colors zap and zing across his face in ivory and blushing pink. They travel along a spectrum — shape-shifting through a shy glance, the twitch of a brow, a phrase "forgotten" from a past he doesn't have. Like the fish, he's struggling too without protest — because of who he is.

    "Boy A" is a moniker for a man who, at 24, is just released for the killing of a little girl 14 years ago, when he was ten. With the help of his caseworker, Terry (a gravelly Peter Mullan), he's given a new identity — Jack Barridge — and a new town in the U.K., and he finds a job, friends, and a girlfriend. No one in his new life knows of his past. Meanwhile, a frenzied national public, fueled by a frenzied media, embarks on a modern-day witch hunt to uncover his whereabouts.

    Boy A  
    Director John Crowley layers conflict and suspense over a thin (and somewhat beside-the-point) plot. The film veers toward the mildly abstract as the questions turn inward; it's not about whether Jack can outsmart the people who are out to get him, but rather, what audience members would do if they ever encountered a real-life Jack Barridge.

    Redemption and forgiveness and the meaning of evil are popular indie themes, but they're made fresh here with a great cast. I loved Katie Lyons, playing Jack's spiky blue-collar girlfriend Michelle, and the love scenes that develop are poignant and real. Peter Mullan is compelling, too, as a fiercely protective caseworker who nevertheless struggles with his personal relationships at home. There are no real villains, no one to point any fingers to, and so in the end nature (human and otherwise) emerges as the victor — as if to anoint us all fishes in the wild blue sea.

    JULY 23, 2008

    Reader comments on Boy A:

  • songs!   from MUK, Nov 17, 2008
  • Boy A review   from Iain, Dec 12, 2010
  • p.s.   from Iain, Dec 12, 2010

  • Post a comment on "Boy A"