Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Butcher Boy

Merle Keegan writes:
In The Butcher Boy, Neil Jordan
Eamonn Owens as Francie Brady
gives us the story of twelve year-old Irish boy Francie Brady, who loses both of his parents and goes mad. There is no warm lyricism in this film. Instead, there is horror and what you might call gallows humour. Ages ago, it seems, I read the original novel by Patrick McCabe, and I can tell you that this adaptation is very respectful - and studded with good actors like Stephen Rea and Aisling O'Sullivan (Francie's unfortunate parents) and Eamonn Owens, brilliant as Francie, who is as you might imagine considering that his dad is the principal village drunk and his mother is to say the least a hopeless organiser - mentally unstable. The local busybody, Mrs Nugent (Fiona Shaw) classifies the dysfunctional family as "pigs".

Francie copes by embracing fantasy, living a life based on old TV programmes (this is set in the Sixties) like The Lone Ranger and The Fugitive. With his pal Joe (Alan Boyle), he turns the village and its surrounding woodland into a law-free playground. As the family's fortunes decline, Francie becomes more reckless and violent. It is all dark comedy, but also really horrible. Fortunately, Neil Jordan steers clear of the sanctimonious and the sentimental, and the result is disturbing. He also avoids Irish stereotypes - the characters in this film are of the sort of you find in many cultures.

It's a great novel which has been compared with Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, and a great film too, the journey of a preadolescent rebellious boy. I am grateful to Headingley LitFest for giving us a chance to see it.

Beth Anderson writes:

After reading the short introduction to Neil Jordan’s The Butcher Boy, featured in the Headingly Litfest programme, I was unsure what to expect when sitting down to watch it. Set in the 1960s, in a small town in Ireland, the film begins with the voice of our narrator, Francie Brady, who is also the protagonist. Retrospectively, he tells us the story of his troubled childhood as it plays out on screen. Our first introduction to young Francie sets him up as a mischievous, but ultimately lovable character who brings humour to what seems to be a somewhat tragic plot. 

As the film progresses, you soon learn not to try to predict what is about to come next, but instead prepare yourself for what may occur in the next scene. We soon learn that the film is less comedic and more tragic as Francie loses his dysfunctional mother and father to suicide and alcoholism, adding to the deterioration of his own sanity, which leads him to commit acts of increasingly brutality. The film ends with Francie having one last conversation with Our Lady, who has been part of his imaginative conversations throughout the film, trying to tell him it’s time to move on from his past life. 

The Butcher Boy, is definitely a film within its own right and one that isn’t for the faint hearted! However, it is fantastically thought provoking with its underlying theme of deep compassion – a truly outstanding piece of film all in all.

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