Urban Cinefile
"Someday I'd be a famous director. Someday I'd be rich. Someday I'd have the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger. . . "  -Mark Illsley, director of Happy, Texas on his 'someday' syndrome
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Saturday, December 16, 2017 

Search SEARCH FOR A VIDEO_FILE
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Help/Contact

BUTCHER BOY, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Francie Brady (Eamonn Owens) is a troubled, but charming twelve-year-old boy growing up in a small Irish town in the 1960s. With an alcoholic dad, Benny (Stephen Rea), a burnt out trumpet player and a neurotic mother, Annie (Aisling O'Sullivan), who's on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Francie hangs out with his best friend, Joe (Alan Boyle), or retreats into his own fantasy world gradually filling up with bug-eyed aliens, communists, occasional nuclear blasts, and visions of the Virgin Mary (Sinéad O'Connor). His favourite, most passionate pastime, however, is irritating Mrs. Nugent (Fiona Shaw), an uppity neighbour , who likened the Bradys to a bunch of pigs. So, Francie and Joe go about terrorising Nugent's nervous and nerdy son, Philip (Andrew Fullerton), when not taunting her. Things get worse when Francie's mother kills herself -- leaving him with his boozed up father- and when Joe soon backs away from Francie's behaviour and befriends Philip. Francie’s anguish leads to more and more agitated and violent behaviour, and things come to a head after he takes a job at the local butchery. Francie finally loses his last contacts with sanity and reality.

"At his best Neil Jordan is one of cinema's most astonishing film makers; with The Butcher Boy, the director is at the peak of his artistry. It's no surprise that this screen adaptation of the contentious novel has raised more than the odd eyebrow, but not since Kubrick's Clockwork Orange has a film emerged that explores the brutality of youth, in such a darkly savage, funny and ironic allegory. The Butcher Boy is a dazzling masterwork, a film that is hypnotic and visually startling. At the centre of the film is screen discovery Eamonn Owens, who gives the bravest and deepest performance by a child in years. As the troubled Francie, Owens is innocent and naïve, precocious and troublesome, and bursting with a seething emotional rage that has been skilfully executed by one so young. He literally intoxicates the viewer, and through the richness of both performance and character, enables the audiences to see Francie as a complex being whose foray into violence seems strangely justified. But The Butcher Boy is not a film purely about Francie, but about postwar Ireland and its ongoing battle against the forces of religion. Religion is a thematically integral facet of the film, and is a bold satire on religious persecution. This is highlighted in the film's haunting moments featuring Sinead O'Connor as a smart-talking visionary Virgin Mary. The film has been condemned for those scenes, and clearly Jordan's casting of O'Connor was deliberately provocative and a stroke of genius. As cinema, the film is incomparable, a beautifully textured and haunting work that looks exquisite, using an appropriate musical score of the period. The film is a detailed, complex study in childhood, religion and the brittle effects of love and friendship. There's never been a character quite like Francie on screen for quite some time. The Butcher Boy is not for everyone, but it's an audacious and rich moviegoing experience."
Paul Fischer

"Yes, Paul, but no, Paul. Yes, it is a fantastic performance by young Owens, and yes Jordan has crafted a superbly inventive film, burrowing into its subject matter with the passion of a Beethoven and the precision of a Swiss watch. And the folk who question his adaptation of the novel should read novelist Patrick McCabe’s account of the adaptation process before they say anything. (He basically embraces what Jordan has done to his own screenplay drafts.) But NO, this is not a film exploring the brutality of youth, and Clockwork Orange has no place in the references. Whatever the novel, this film is primarily an exploration of a young boy going insane; it is arguable whether his environment has caused or propelled his condition, but it is indisputable that they didn’t help. Neither does the church, and this is where Christian religion takes a bit of a hammering at Jordan’s hands. All the same, it deserves to. And NO, I don’t like the subject matter, although I recognise Jordan’s achievement in creating a compelling, affecting film."
Andrew L. Urban

"A seriously handsome production, beautifully crafted, conceived and executed, The Butcher Boy is a deeply original, intricate work, exploring the inner complexities of a disturbed young boy, whose out of control behaviour leads him on a path to disaster. Neil Jordan has captured an individual voice through the haunting character of Francie, brilliantly portrayed by 12 year old newcomer Eamonn Owens, whose performance is dynamite. A born leader, filled with mischief and individuality, Francie copes with his problem-filled life by creating a fantasy world, which is both inventive, imaginative, comic and tragic. With no sense of remorse, Francie leapfrogs from one escapade to another: at first with joyous fun and innocence, then leading to devastation and tragedy. Directed with pizzazz and vision, with a rich, splendid production design, there’s much to enjoy in The Butcher Boy. Haunting images of two boys bonded in friendship, hardships of family and coping with grief and tragedy. The apparition of Mary is treated lightheartedly and with a comic touch, and everything is seen from the perspective of the troubled boy. It’s a superb cast that intricately weaves the spell. Like Heavenly Creatures and Intimate Relations before it, there is a sense of the shocking in the events that transpire, especially as the characters are effectively and authentically represented as ‘normal’. A single vision, The Butcher Boy is a haunting film that is both moving, enjoyable and disturbing. The use of music - evocative strains of traditional songs like Oh Mein Papa, to Sinatra’s haunting Where are You touches the perspectives and explores reality and fantasy."
Louise Keller

"Following two big-budget productions, Interview with the Vampire and Michael Collins, Neil Jordan is back on home ground with The Butcher Boy, a brilliantly bold, haunting evocation of an intensely troubled and violent childhood. A remarkably faithful adaptation of Patrick McCabe’s macabre 1992 novel, Jordan’s 10th feature is an ambitious pic that remains intimately focused, a brutally honest exploration of a disturbed mind that is both horrific and darkly comic….Like a rich Dickens novel, the film is sprinkled with standout character performances that give it its frenzied, seriocomic texture … The Butcher Boy is without doubt Jordan’s most startlingly original and accomplished film to date."
Emanuel Levy, Variety

Email this article

__________________

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2
__________________

BUTCHER BOY, THE (MA)15+
(UK)

CAST: Eamonn Owens, Alan Boyle, Stephen Rea, Fiona Shaw, Andrew Fullerton, Aisling O’Sullivan, Ian Hart, Patrick McCabe, Sinead O’Connor

DIRECTOR: Neil Jordan

PRODUCER: Redmond Morris

SCRIPT: Patrick McCabe, Neil Jordan (based on the novel by McCabe)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Adrian Biddle

EDITOR: Tony Lawson

SPECIAL EFFECTS SUPERVISOR: Joss Williams

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tony Pratt

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 23, 1998







© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2017