The Butcher Boy

on April 03, 1998 by Tony Deane
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   This may be an Irish made movie with local surroundings, but it could be set anywhere in the world. Based on a best-selling novel by Patrick McCabe, "The Butcher Boy" is set in a small Irish town in the 1960s. The cinema and radio are what keep the locals going, and young Francie Brady is no different than anyone else. A boy with a fertile imagination, he listens to the adults as they argue the ways of the world, in particular the Cuban missile crisis.
   Coming from a dysfunctional family (his father is an alcoholic, his mother is a suicidal manic-depressive), Francie is closest to his school chum Joe. Life is best for him when they act out the cowboy and Indian games based on what they've read in comic books. Living with a drunken father and a mother who is forever preparing cakes for the imminent arrival of "Uncle Alo" from London does not deter the cheerful lad. Life gets cruel, however, and he loses his father, mother and friend, which leaves him insecure and threatened by his adult surroundings. In order to get his own back on the world, he takes his anger out on a snobbish neighbor who won't let her son play with him; the fact that she dresses in shock green makes him think she's like one of the aliens in his comics.
   Neil Jordan's 10th film is an extraordinary piece of cinema. It features almost an entirely Irish cast, including Stephen Rea as the father and Aisling O'Sullivan as the mother; pop singer Sinead O'Connor appears in the film's apparition sequences as the Virgin Mary. Perhaps the most astounding performer in the film is a young man called Eamon Owens, who plays the young boy. With no acting experience, he was picked from 2,000 other hopefuls for the part; Alan Boyle, who comes from the same school, plays his pal Joe to perfection. This film gives life to the screen, capturing an era long forgotten. And not only are the performances stunning; so is Jordan's direction.    Starring Eamon Owens, Stephen Rea, Aisling O'Sullivan, Fiona Shaw, Brendan Gleeson, Milo O'Shea and Ian Hart. Directed and produced by Neil Jordan. Written by Neil Jordan and Patrick McCabe. A Warner Bros. release. Drama. Rated R for language and violence. Running time: 109 min. Screened at the Galway, Ireland fest.
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