Crime And Punishment

John Crowley's Boy A Is A Provocative Crime Drama

Heartbreaking and harrowing, Boy A proves that Irish stage director John Crowley's first film - 2004's Intermission - wasn't a fluke. A chamber piece in the truest sense of the word, Boy A depicts the complicated relationship that develops between 24-year-old ex-con Jack (Andrew Garfield) and his middle-aged caseworker Terry (the excellent Peter Mullan) after being released from prison. Crowley's oblique storytelling approach (he doesn't tell us the exact nature of Jack's crime until late in the movie) reaps huge dividends by amping up the suspense. By the time we learn the grisly circumstances that sent Jack away for 14 long years, we've become so emotionally invested in his rehabilitation - thanks in large measure to Garfield and Mullan's extraordinarily empathetic performances - that it almost doesn't matter.

Set in the grimly forlorn northern industrial town of Manchester, England, Crowley makes the city as much of a protagonist in the drama as Terry or Jack. The hopelessness and despair that's a part of everyday life in this economically strapped burg is reflected in the faces of its shell-shocked denizens and sepulchral brick buildings. Yet despite this overarching sadness, Boy A has poetic, lyrical passages that belie the sometimes-oppressive gloom. It's impossible not to cheer for Jack when he lands a job at a delivery company or shyly asks his clearly interested coworker Michelle (Katie Lyons) out on a date. Terry remains Jack's biggest support system, and the paternal bond that develops between them is the film's brightest, most touching element. (Coincidentally, the divorced Jack is estranged from his own biological son.)

Based on a novel by Jonathan Trigell, Boy A is framed as an exegesis on the very nature of crime, punishment and forgiveness. Is it possible to absolve an unforgivable act? And can a conscience-stricken murderer like Jack ever truly move on and live a normal life?

[email protected]

Scroll to read more Movie Reviews & Stories articles
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.