We recently commemorated the 25th anniversary of Channel 4 here on MSN, pondering whether the broadcaster had lost its way. After watching Boy A, I can safely say that Channel 4’s sat nav is back on track and taking the station in the right direction…for now at least. After the intense disappointment of over-hyped abysmal one-off drama Clapham Junction, Boy A served as a compelling reminder that Channel 4 can still pick ’em.
Based on the award-winning novel by Jonathan Trigell, this powerful drama raises difficult questions for which there are no easy answers. Boy A is a fictional story about a young man named Jack (an excellent Andrew Garfield) who has spent most of his life in institutions as punishment for a murder he committed as a child of ten.
At 24, Jack is released into an unrecognisable adult world ("What’s a panini?") with a new name, a new job; a new life. Only his case worker Terry (Peter Mullan – superb) knows his true identity. In the meantime, the media is on the prowl with tabloids and magazines offering rewards to anyone who discovers his whereabouts.
But anonymity is both a blessing and a curse. Jack, desperate to re-build his life and seize this second chance, has to contend with never being able to tell the people he gets to know and love of his true past and the monstrous secret he must keep hidden, afraid at every turn he’ll be found out.
Although fictional, it’s nigh on impossible to watch Boy A and not think of the James Bulger case. I’ll never forget the absolute horror the entire country felt when the CCTV revealed little James being led away, not by an adult male paedophile, a natural presumption perhaps, but by two little boys. Jon Venables and Robert Thompson (as they were named back then) are now the age of Boy A; James Bulger would’ve been 17.
This tense film, clouded with a sense of foreboding, forces viewers to confront dark, emotive, haunting issues and it’s a harrowing watch; my heart was in my mouth the entire time. Thanks to a nuanced, layered performance by the excellent Andrew Garfield, Jack is a three-dimensional character: vulnerable, violent, conflicted, insecure, loyal, tormented. Although the moral ambiguity is a definite weakness (we first encounter the 10-year-old rather shrewish victim snogging another boy – yeah right – before she berates Jack’s friend), contrivances, such as the rescue of a little girl, Jack’s apparent ignorance of DVDs (as if) and the way his true identity is uncovered, should be overlooked to see the bigger picture here: simplistic notions aren’t so simple. Despite being flawed in some respects, Boy A remains thought-provoking drama of the highest order.
Today I am mostly lovin’ – Judge Judy. Still lovin’ that show. Judge Hatchett et al? Fuhgeddaboutit.
Today I am mostly hatin’ – Torrential rain and I’ve forgotten my umbrella. I go into a shop and the geezer tries to sell me a bog standard cheapo, a really flimsy thing that’s probably been made for 45p in a sweat shop, for £7.50. I collapse laughing and take the soaking instead. A pox upon your house sir, you heartless opportunist!
MSN Editor Coops