Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Boy A

Based on the novel by Jonathan Trigell, Boy A is the story of a young man who has just been released from prison as he tries to return to a normal life while reflecting on his past. Directed by John Crowley and screenplay by Mark O’Rowe, the film is an exploration into the world of a young man trying to cope with his past and figure out what to do as a free man. Starring Andrew Garfield, Alfie Owen, Katie Lyons, and Peter Mullan. Boy A is a captivating yet harrowing drama from John Crowley.

The film is essentially the story of this young man named Eric Wilson (Andrew Garfield) who is released from prison after he and his friend had killed a young girl nearly 10 years ago. With the help of his parole officer Terry (Peter Mullan), Eric becomes Jack Burridge where he eventually starts a new life, makes new friends, and has a new girlfriend in Michelle (Katie Lyons). Yet, he becomes haunted by his past as he struggles to maintain his new life. Even as newspapers and such have him threatening everything as Terry tries to help him. It’s a film that explores a young man dealing with the guilt of what he’s done as well as loss where he tries to start anew with the help of a parole officer only for the past to return.

Mark O’Rowe’s screenplay moves back-and-forth to explore Eric’s attempt to live a normal life while he reflects on the past when he was a kid (Alfie Owen). Notably as he tries to live quietly as a normal young man who is shy and sensitive where he gets a job, a girlfriend, and makes new friends. Yet, he tries his best to stay away from trouble as he’s often checked on by this sympathetic parole officer who is having his own problems with his son living at his home doing nothing but drink and watch TV. The script does allow the character of Eric to feel comfortable though he is still troubled by the past where it would take a few things that would play to his paranoia. At the same time, he struggles to deal with the fact that he’s in a relationship with a young woman as he wants to be truthful to her.

John Crowley’s direction is quite stylish in the way he frames certain scenes as well as setting a mood for the film’s flashback scenes. Shot largely in Manchester and parts of Blackpool in England, it’s a film where this young man is attempting to start over where he has a hard time at first adjusting to normalcy while doing whatever he can to please his parole officer who also wants to see good results. A lot of Crowley’s approach to framing is very unique where he has this entrancing approach to placing an actor in the frame and on a certain location. There’s also lots of tracking shots to follow Eric around as he’s on the move while the flashback scenes are more wide open as it’s often shot in canals and some grimy locations. Notably as it reveals a lot of parallels on who Eric was as a child and later on as a young man dealing with guilt. Overall, Crowley creates a very entrancing yet gripping drama that explores the world of guilt and loss.

Cinematographer Rob Hardy does excellent work with the photography as a lot of the daytime exteriors are straightforward and colorful while some of the nighttime interior and exterior settings are very stylized including a scene at the club. Editor Lucia Zucchetti does brilliant work with the editing by employing lots of stylish jump-cuts to play up the rhythms as well as creating smooth transitions for the film‘s flashback scenes. Production designer Jon Henson, along with art director Andrea Hughes and set decorators Anita Gupta and Robert Wischhusen-Hayes, does nice work with some of the set pieces from the factory that Eric works at as well as the nightclub he goes to.

Costume designer Julian Day does very good work with the costumes as it‘s mostly straightforward as a lot of the characters wear casual clothes while the young Eric wears a schoolboy uniform. Sound editor Paul Davies does great work with the sound from the atmosphere of the club scenes to the intimacy presented between Eric and whoever he‘s conversing with. The film’s music by Paddy Cunneen is wonderful as it is a mixture of plaintive piano music with a dash of folk-driven pieces to play up the film‘s melancholic tone. Music supervisor Liz Gallacher creates a superb soundtrack that features an array of electronic pieces by Robyn, Hot Chip, Mylo, and Mint Royale.

The casting by Fiona Weir is fantastic as it features some memorable small performances from Taylor Doherty as Eric’s childhood friend Philip, Skye Bennett as the young girl they killed, Shaun Evans as Eric’s new friend Chris, and Siobhan Finneran as Eric’s new landlady who has no idea who he really is. Alfie Owen is great as the young Eric who is this shy boy who feels lonely as he finds a friend in Philip. Katie Lyons is wonderful as Eric’s new girlfriend who is intrigued by him while wondering why he’s so shy. Peter Mullan is amazing as Eric’s parole officer Terry who is trying to make sure Eric does well while telling him to break away from the past as he’s also dealing with his estranged son.

Finally, there’s Andrew Garfield in an incredible performance as Eric Wilson/Jack Burridge. Garfield displays a sensitivity that is engaging to watch as well as a young man just trying to lay low while dealing with the guilt over what he’s done as well as loss. There’s also a darkness in Garfield’s performance where he can be dangerous but often maintains control where he also exudes a sense of awkwardness in the film’s club scene. It’s truly a performance that is just a marvel to watch as it is an indication that Garfield is one of the best young actors to emerge in the late 2000s.

Boy A is an astonishing film from John Crowley that features an unforgettable performance from Andrew Garfield. The film is definitely an intriguing piece on guilt and loss as well as young’s man attempt to find redemption and start anew. While it’s a drama that does feature some unsettling moments, it is still a story that is just compelling to watch. In the end, Boy A is a remarkable film from John Crowley.

John Crowley Films: (Intermission) - (Is Anybody There?) - (Closed Circuit) - Brooklyn (2015 film)

© thevoid99 2013

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