Director : Neil Jordan
With : Stephen Rea, Ian Hart, Sinéad O’Connor
I had enormously high hopes when I entered the theater to see the post “Interview With A Vampire” rebound from director Neil Jordan. I left mildly disappointed yet reasonably entertained. “The Butcher Boy” is the surreal tale of a bizarre Irish boy, Francie, played remarkably by newcomer Eamonn Owens. Born to a pathetic drunk (Stephan Rea) and a manic depressive mother, it is no surprise that Francie’s character turns out to be more than just your typical dysfunctional youth.
As he and his best mate, Joe, cause minor havoc throughout town’s streets, Francie becomes more and more obsessed with the perpetual harassment of a nerdy schoolmate and his nasty mother. His preoccupation elevates as his family situation becomes more and more dire, as some sort of irrational outlet for familial honor. In Francie, Neil Jordan has managed to create one of the most insane but bizarrely likable characters in recent history.
The cinematography and the inspired performance by Eamonn Owens create a surreal texture, attempting to convey the how the world must look through the eyes of a disturbed child. As innocently as the film begins, Francie decent into the depths of youthful insanity leads him away from a Dickensian childhood towards something darker and ultimately irredeemable.
Jordan, whose epic cinematic style seems less adaptable to coming of age tales than it does to faster paced more adult films, has succeeded in maintaining a level of enjoyable uncomfortability throughout the film. At no point does he allow you to merely relax and enjoy. The film is an experiment in testing limits. Francie’s self destruction is both hard to watch and entertaining- but in this paradox lies the beauty of the film.