I guess this subject had already been explored a number of times recently - how convicted criminals, upon release from their jail term, attempt to re-integrate themselves back into society. With Little Children and The Woodsman, we essentially have pedophiles who were released and had to deal with deep rooted prejudice and non-forgiveness in the community they reside in. But what if this criminal is a killer?
Based on the novel by Jonathan Trigell, "Boy A" refers to the unnamed boy who cannot be positively identified during the trial as he's a minor. After serving significant time behind bars, we see him being released from prison, and working with his counsellor Terry (Peter Mullan), he adopts a new identity as Jack Burridge (Andrew Garfield). This is not only for an opportunity to start life afresh with a totally new and made up background, but to serve as a mask of protection against retributive attacks by the case sympathizers, or by the family members who may be out for their own brand of justice served.
But of course this is no action movie, so scrap those thoughts of having a man on the run, with contract killers on the loose. What we have here instead is a touching exploration of a teenager's despair at trying to recalibrate his life after the chilling crime committed at an age where he was influenced by best pal Philip Craig (Taylor Doherty). And here's where Andrew Garfield's ability got tested to the max, where he constantly has to live a lie, and finds it extremely hard to work at, and obtain the trust of others, always having to deal with the niggling feeling that he's not being totally honest, and with romance in the picture with Michelle (Katie Lyons), it just complicates things. Fate allows him to redeem himself, but one wonders if that is enough, and whether one good deed can free oneself from the sins of the past.
Garfield's charismatic presence will engage you from the get go as he carries the movie through from start right up until the end, and kudos too to the editing and direction set to weave what's essentially two story arcs seamlessly together, with the current timeline, and one which looked at the mysterious past where events were presented a little bit at a time. We see how the two young boys evolve over time in their spiral downwards in morality, and even so the dastardly crime doesn't get shown verbatim, but only through a fishing reference, which will cause the audience to question how culpable Jack was with his involvement in the crime.
Running parallel to Jack's story is that of Terry the counsellor as well, being estranged from his wife, and having to address the disappointment he has with his own son. It's not hard to see how close he is to Jack, and how under his care or lackof, would develop inside each boy as the story went along. And this character study also extended to various supporting characters as well, especially one whose promise to another seem to ring hollow the minute you hear it, which just makes it a little bit more heart-wrenching when you see Jack's nonchalant response, as if pre-emptive, and in the know.
So, yellow ribbon project? I suppose the reality of it is that it still boiled down to the crime itself, and just how tolerant society is toward it in a case by case basis. Don't let this gripping drama slip you by, it's powerful stuff that will continue to pose questions for discussion way after the end credits roll.