‘I can’t go back being that other person, because that other person is dead…’
Every now and again you come across a film and an actor that makes you sit up and take notice. Winters Bone and Jennifer Lawrence, American Psycho and Christian Bale, Half Nelson and Ryan Gosling. One example that always sticks out for me though is Boy A and Andrew Garfield.
Boy A asks uncomfortable questions of its audience and demands an answer. It is similar to American History X in that regard but in tone Boy A is closer to the top end of British drama that the BBC and C4 do so well. Without giving too away, Boy A finds Andrew Garfield recently released from a young offenders institute and attempting to forge a new life for himself under the watchful eye of Peter Mullan’s guidance counsellor Terry.
Garfield is a revelation. It is difficult to recall a more vulnerable and sympathetic portrayal for what is an extremely complicated character. It is astonishing to think that this sensitive and exposed performance came just two years before his cocky, charismatic turn in Red Riding (another British production that I urge anyone to watch).
Peter Mullan is solid as always, managing to offer the potential for menace whilst still being avuncular and accessible. Director John Crowley does a great job in moving the story along and he also captures life in a Northern city perfectly but this is Garfield’s show. From the first scene to the last, Garfield is at once wounded and captivating. For all his Hollywood success and critical acclaim, it is arguable that Andrew Garfield didn’t improve on his performance in Boy A until the all conquering Hacksaw Ridge.
Boy A is not a barrel of laughs and it certainly isn’t for the faint hearted but it contains an acting masterclass, as well as presenting philosophical arguments without being at all pretentious. A criminally under watched and vastly underrated film.