Andrew Garfield was a relative unknown in North America until, and perhaps even after, he played Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network. This will likely change this month as he becomes the new Spider-Man. But back in 2007, the English actor played the eponymous role in the small but impressive British indie film, Boy A.
Boy A opens in an institution. A young man soon to be released is meeting with his counsellor-cum-case worker, Terry. Fresh-faced and eager with an almost child-like sweetness, he is looking forward to life outside with a mixture of hopefulness and uncertainty. He picks his name: Jack. Terry has a strong affection for Jack and, with his encouragement and support, Jack eases into society. He works, he makes friends and starts building a social life. However, a dark history lurks behind his gentleness and vulnerability. That it is a horrifying is hinted at early on, but the details are only gradually revealed in flashbacks.
Our sympathy with Jack is what gives the film its power. Close camera work presents the world from Jack’s point of view. Garfield’s performance is mesmerizing. Emotions, varying and conflicting, dance across his open face and manifest in his posture. We quickly identify with him and we both root for him and fear for him. Director John Crowley approaches the film with a clean and minimalist sensibility. There is very little visual, emotional or narrative clutter. With a small cast in pivotal roles, the film packs an emotional punch far above its weight class.
Available on DVD.
With "Into the Vault", Pauline Dong will be looking at older films that were overlooked on first release or deserve a second viewing. The series will appear on the first Thursday of every month.
Written by Pauline Dong
A native Torontonian, Pauline enjoys much that the city has to offer, especially in the areas of food and drink. She is also an enthusiastic traveller and explorer of other cultures. A self-described film geek, her interest in movies was first piqued by the early works of Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and Wong Kar-Wai. More a fan than a critic, she invites your thoughts on the films in her articles.