(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)
If you only read the movie description on the DVD case, you'll be apprised of storyline but I'll write freely, so please heed the spoiler warning. Boy A, we learn, was a lonely boy growing up with a mother dying of breast cancer. She never leaves her bed and pushes away her son when he comes looking for motherly support. His father is completely checked out--sits in front of the television and barks at Jack to not bother his mother. We never see his face. The young pre-Jack boy befriends another lonely boy--a sociopath with a short fuse. Pre-Jack falls for the allure of a friend. You learn the sad path in flashbacks spread through the course of the movie. Jack and his friend are accused of the brutal killing of a 10-year old girl. The boys are tried, convicted and sent to prison for a long time.
After rehabilitating for approximately 10-12 years (I'm guessing), Boy A is set upon the world with his new moniker, Jack Burridge (Andrew Garfield). His caseworker, Terry (Peter Mullan) is fond of him. He's put everything into helping Jack. He remains as Jack's lifeline, guiding 24-year-old Jack through his new life identity and supporting him while Jack learns how to socialize in his new world, while keeping his former identity and violent past a secret. Jack finds a job, meets some mates and falls in love. A sub-plot involves Terry's son finding him and wanting to get to know him after years of estrangement. Seems that Terry didn't see his son or make an effort and now he's getting to know him as his son tries to figure out his dad's motivations for having been an absent father.
I'm sorry I missed this one in the theater. I was captivated throughout, watching the likeable Jack. Garfied creates a well rounded character. His vulnerability is worn self-consciously in his expressions and body language. He brings life to a boy who would be otherwise detested and unlikable. You, the viewer, are privy to his general crime but you don't get the specifics until close to the end and at that point, you are even more confused. Then, you are struck with the reality. Jack is complicit but also a victim. The ending is likely to spur an ethics debate about his role in the crime. That's what I loved about it. It leaves you confused about what he did or didn't do. It's a simple, yet layered story that questions, among other things, if innocence can be regained.
Not a feel-good; it's a well constructed dark movie that doesn't flinch at reality and the choices we make regarding good and evil.
Director: John Crowley
Run time: 100 minutes