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Boy A

Critic's Pick Critics' Pick

(No longer in theaters)
  • Rating: R — for language, sexuality, some disturbing content and brief drug use
  • Director: John Crowley   Cast: Andrew Garfield, Peter Mullan, Siobhan Finneran, Alfie Owen, Victoria Brazier
  • Running Time: 100 minutes
  • Reader Rating: Write a Review




Lynn Horsford


The Weinstein Co.

Release Date

Jul 23, 2008

Release Notes


Official Website


Boy A has a shocking subject and revolves around it artfully—perhaps too artfully, given the rawness of its premise. The deliberateness makes it easier to keep your guard up. The title is what the protagonist was labeled (to protect his identity) after he and a friend committed a horrific—and notorious—crime as minors. Now, at age 24, the young man (Andrew Garfield) is out, with a new name, a new home (Manchester, England), and a counselor (Peter Mullan) posing as his uncle to help him navigate his new world. The tabloids would like to know where (and who) he is; there’s also a bounty on his head. But “Jack Burridge” wants to live a normal life with true friends and a loving mate. Which is hard when he can’t share the most momentous experience of his life.

The novel by Jonathan Trigell has a punchy matter-of-factness—the kind of manly one-thing-after-another tone in which the emotion slowly bubbles up from under the surface. John Crowley’s movie has the same coolness, but it’s self-consciously stark; Jack’s Expressionistic attic bedroom (slanted wall, angled shaft of light) is a howl. Garfield gives an amazingly vivid performance that strikes me as wrong. He’s a simpleton, an innocent—more childish in his affect than the kid (Alfie Owen) who plays him in flashbacks. Boy A comes down to whether Jack is the embodiment of evil—as the tabloids portray him—or someone who did something bad but wasn’t innately bad. In the movie, it’s a nonissue; he’s sweet and befuddled. This is another of those dead-kid dramas in which the terrible event is handled like a striptease—tantalizing flashes until the climax. But when that climax comes, Boy A turns out not to be especially malevolent. He’s the child murderer as sacrificial lamb.

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