Boy A is the perfect kind of movie to see completely cold. My pals Vickie and Eric has both caught the film at the Toronto Film Festival in 2007, and they were all abuzz about this independent British film. I made sure to add it to my list blindly when it came to my corner of the film festival world, and I found it to be a refreshingly unique, compelling and well-acted drama that was a breath of fresh air. If you don’t want to know more, quit reading and go check out the film.
For the rest of you, Boy A is the story of one young man’s journey back into the real world after a long period of isolation. We meet this 20-something man as he is allowed to choose a new name for himself, something that will represent his new life. He decides to call himself Jack. Jack (Andrew Garfield) is disarming when we meet him. He is talking to his mentor (or is he a parole officer? or a counselor? it is unclear at first), mulling over his new life. His face lights up like a child when presented with a brand new pair of trainers. What is it about this guy with the bashful smile, and the guileless stare of an adolescent. He is not developmentally disabled… but there is certainly something off, like he has been in a protected plastic bubble, kept away from reality and conflict.
As Jack goes into the world, with an arranged apartment, and a carefully setup job as a delivery guy at a warehouse, the audience is as wary about the new surroundings as the character. There is something that Jack is hiding… something perhaps very dark in his past. His only connection to his past is his mentor Terry (Peter Mullan), whom he calls for advice, help, or sometimes in frightened desperation. You just know there is something that he has been sheltered from all these years… or perhaps the world has been protected from him. There is an underlying ominous undertone to the whole thing, as bit by bit Jack’s past is revealed.
Andrew Garfield, a young actor I had never seen before, completely carries the film as tormented and sweet Jack, and Peter Mullan is excellent as usual, as Jack’s only “friend”—the only one who knows of his past. Boy A is a fascinating and wholly satisfying drama—a mystery that slowly unfolds for the audience, creating a complex portrait of a screwed up individual. This film will probably get buried amongst the super-heroes and explosions of the summer flicks, but it is definitely a well-worthy cinematic diversion for those seeking a thought-provoking story.