Directed by Neil Jordan
Based on The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe
The Butcher Boy is another great work from Neil Jordan, a masterpiece I would say and a part of the trio of his best movies (the other two are The Crying Game and The End of the Affair). It’s a remarkable experiance, adapted from the Patrick McCabe novel. At the begining of the movie we see the scene of two boys shouting “Fuck off!” to the fish in the river, and that’s the perfect sign that we are gonna witness something really special and surreal. The film tells a story about the tortured childhood of Francie Brady (Eamonn Owens). His days are filled with playing cowboys and Indians with his friend Joe (Alan Boyle). But he feels that something is wrong in the air. The grown ups are becoming more and more frightened over their destiny in the midst of the atomic hysteria. Francie’s tragic family life with alcoholic father (Jordan’s regular Stephen Rea) and suicidal mother (Aisling O’Sullivan) is the main catalyst for his descend into religious and violent fantasies. One tragedy after another will eventually lead to his breakdown and violent outburst.
It’s remarkable how Jordan succeeds in portraying Francie with compassion and understanding even in his most violent moments. We can wonder how much his character would be demonized and simplified if this was made by some less talented director and as some big studio production. Francie would be reduced to a typical one dimensional evil child character. But fortunatelly Jordan knows better. Eamonn Owens did an amazing job as at first a mischievous boy who wants to spend his childhood playing and having fun, who through the movie becomes more and more consumed by his fantasies and most of the time we are never completely sure if what we see is the reality or Francie’s fantasy world. This line between them becomes more and more thin until the final violent conflict happens. This is very dark, humorous and warm portrait of the lost childhood, completely succeeding in portraying its characters as a human beings and never going for easy solutions. Big recommendation!