I’ve always been someone that, when a criminal gets locked up, I don’t want them to ever get out. I’ve heard the arguments about rehabilitation and all that, but I just don’t think people change. Yet here’s a movie about a killer that committed this act when he was a kid. He gets out of prison 14 years later, and he truly is a changed person. And it was such a tour de force for actor Andrew Garfield (Lions for Lambs) that I was rooting for him. This is something other movies usually fail at. If I see a character do something early on in a movie that makes me dislike them, I very rarely sympathize with them later.
I remember watching Dead Man Walking and being surprised that director Tim Robbins (and his girlfriend, star Susan Sarandon), decided to show the flashbacks of the killer (played wonderfully by Sean Penn). Doing that made us not have sympathy for him being taken to the electric chair. That doesn’t mean you don’t find the scene emotional on some level. His family is crying. The nun (Sarandon) helping him is sad.
In this movie, we’re shown flashbacks too. Seeing the pain on Garfield’s face as he thinks about these actions he’s caused, sells us on the fact that he’s changed.
Boy A (he wasn’t named in the original case since he was a minor) is now a man, and he wants to get on with his life.
This movie is based on the novel by Jonathan Trigell, and the British movie is similar to a case in Liverpool in the early ‘90s. Two 10-year-olds killed a toddler. This film is dealing with a fictional story that takes place 15 years after that fact.
A caseworker named Terry (actor Peter Mullan, who you’ll recognize when you see) is wonderful to the kid. He helps him pick a new name, find an apartment and job, and gives him good advice.
He makes a few friends and has a flirtatious relationship with a co-worker that runs the front desk (Katie Lyons).
There might be a cliché or two (the flashbacks of the kids torturing animals, before they move on to a female classmate), but I found most of it worked for me.
I enjoyed watching a person that really doesn’t have any social skills (when it comes to dealing with people that aren’t in prison). He’s smart enough to learn fast when it comes to what to say and how to act around others. This is why the desk clerk does exactly what the audience does – she’s won over by his boyish charm.
I don’t want to tell you too much about how this all plays out, but you’ll enjoy the ride it takes you on.
Speaking of rides, there’s a train ride late in the movie that has some people misinterpreting the ending. Roger Ebert even got it completely wrong in his review. He didn’t realize one scene involved the boy dreaming about a girl. Ebert asked how the girl got there (that’s why Hollywood always has those weird fuzzy graphics when somebody is time-traveling, reminiscing, or dreaming…if they don’t, audiences think it’s really happening).
I was a tad disappointed by the ending, but it’s powerful and seemed realistic to me.
I give Boy A, a B+.