We still live in a time where deeply internal, emotional performances from male screen actors are rare – especially from younger ones. Perhaps because most major roles for men are written with external, goal-driven motivations as opposed to looking within, the smart career move is to position oneself for those. But every once in a while, a miraculous turn appears.
Such is the case with “Boy A,” which features a young Andrew Garfield at his most sensitive and powerful. Before he became a household name in films like “The Social Network” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Garfield got a chance to get in touch with a side of himself that is seldom seen from men these days. His contemplative performance, nestled within a story that asks tough moral questions, makes this an obvious choice for my “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”
I must admit, I tried to watch “Boy A” a few years ago and turned it off after about 20 minutes. I don’t know what changed from then to now, but I am so glad I gave it a second chance. From its opening moments, I found myself riveted and drawn into the headspace of Garfield’s character, Jack Burridge. Initially, we do not quite understand why he seems unable to supersede the guilt and shame that plagues him. But we can sense the weight of the past in Jack’s every word and action, burdening him so heavily that he cannot move forward into the future.
“Boy A” doles out the specifics of Jack’s situation in a very deliberate manner. We know that he has just been released from some sort of facility and a new identity to become a productive member of society. Some flashbacks to Jack’s childhood are intercut into the action, though they pale in comparison to the information we get just from looking at his face in the present day. The raw emotion captured by director John Crowley proves nothing short of gut-wrenching to watch play out. Jack is clearly a tender, wounded soul, yet he struggles to believe he is worthy of redemption. We, the viewers, feel no such ambiguity after observing just how poignantly Garfield bares his vulnerabilities before us.