Sometimes in film there are characters so sad, so haunted and so helpless, it's almost too painful to watch them struggle. Such is the case with Boy A.
As a young boy Eric Wilson is sent away for the murder of a female classmate. During his trial he was known to the world as Boy A. When he reemerges into society as a young man, he cloaks himself in a new identity as Jack Burridge (Andrew Garfield of Lions for Lambs). With his hangdog face so timid, sweet and nervous, it's hard to believe Jack could perform an act so vile.
Under the guidance of his social worker Terry (Trainspotting's Peter Mullan), who over the years has paid more attention to Jack than to his own estranged son, Jack readjusts to the world, without the world knowing who he was before. He gets a job, makes a new best friend (Shaun Evans) and gets a girlfriend--played by Katie Lyons, who brings the film's few moments of levity, and is lovely and daring in her performance. His new life, though still haunted by his past (which we see in flashbacks), is a fresh start. That is, until he selflessly saves the life of a little girl in a car accident.
The media grabs hold of the new hero, and it isn't long before his former identity comes to the surface. The film begs the question--over and over and over again--of whether we can ever really escape our pasts. Crowley's direction gives the film a slow, methodical pace, and certain scenes feel like we've seen them in a hundred different movies before.
But it's propelled by Garfield, who's so fantastic in his performance because we never want anything bad to happen to Jack, even if he is a convicted murderer. He's a little boy stuck in a man's body, and all you want to do is hold him and tell him everything will be all right.