Like its title character, "Boy A" only gives up its deepest, darkest secrets gradually, and even when it does so, that information comes mostly in pieces and fragments.
In fact, this dramatic thriller is told in a manner that resembles the slow, considered assembly of a puzzle. That may frustrate some viewers who want to know the whole story up front, or have it told in a less-jumbled manner.
Also, the very R-rated language may turn off viewers.
That is a shame, because the material is thought-provoking and features some very good performances. That includes the one given by rising British actor Andrew Garfield, who stars as that aforementioned title character.
This twentysomething has just been released from prison and has been given a job as well as a new name and a new identity, Jack Burridge.
Years of imprisonment have left him a blank slate and have rendered him socially awkward. So he's having a hard time dealing with his co-workers, especially pretty Michelle (Katie Lyons).
And just when Jack's life returns to "normal," he's thrust into the spotlight when he and a new pal perform a heroic rescue of a child. As a result, the secrets he's hidden are beginning to emerge.
Irish filmmaking team John Crowley (director) and Mark O'Rowe (screenwriter) based this tale on the Jonathan Trigell novel, which itself was drawn from real-life incidents. They also employ extensive flashback sequences to show what happened to Jack and why he was imprisoned in the first place.
But they sort of forget about Peter Mullan's sympathetic counselor character and the fractured storytelling feels a little gimmicky at times.Comment on this story
Still, Garfield ("Lions for Lambs") is very good, as is Lyons. Their characters' fumbling romance is one of the film's best story elements.
"Boy A" is rated R and contains strong sexual language (profanity, crude slang terms and other suggestive talk), some strong violence (bullying and automotive mayhem, as well as a disturbing killing, mostly implied), simulated sex and other sexual contact, derogatory language (including slurs based on sexual preference), drug content and references (hallucinogens), and brief partial male and female nudity (as well as nude photos). Running time: 100 minutes.