Neil Jordan seems to be experimenting in an interesting way with the young adult genre.
Sometimes it was hard to really care about the Francie Brady character.
Neil Jordan's The Butcher Boy is a coming of age film of a different sort. Our focus is on Francie Brady (Eammon Owens), a young man who isn't above engaging in frolics simply to have a laugh. He loves hanging out with his friends, reading comic books, and he especially cares for his alcoholic father and depressed mother. Amidst all this the boy has visions of the Virgin Mary (ironically played by Sinead O'Connor), and it soon becomes apparent that he is a very confused soul. Faced with pressures a boy his age shouldn't have to think about, it is clear that Francie is hanging on a by a thread. When rumors are circulated by a nasty neighbor named Mrs. Nugent, Francie does the only admirable thing he thinks he can, he kills her and lands himself inside a mental institution.
The Butcher Boy is the kind of film that subverts your very notion of movies. Neil Jordan presents a world full of characters that aren't redeemable, and it isn't like the filmmaker is telling us that they should be. He is simply presenting a world that is far from black and white and because of that, viewers are forced to reside in a very gray area.
Neil Jordan opens up this commentary by explaining what the voice over means to the story. Right way, he is subverting a listeners expectations of what he's going to talk about. He then goes on to discuss what the actors brought to the roles, how the voice over and the images on screen were juxtaposed and how different the film might have been had other actors been cast in the roles. After establishing those elements, Jordan then goes on to talk about the costumes and locations used in the film, and how that really ended up informing this story.
All three of the deleted scenes in this segment say "Francie" in them. At 111 minutes, this film plays fine (if not a little long). These scenes seemed like they were taken out not so much for time reasons, but because they were redundant in telling us about the Francie character. We know that this kid is a troublemaker but he does have redeemable qualities. To hold who is against him would have been irresponsible for the Jordan to do, and I am glad that that wasn't the case and that we can review these scenes separately.
Widescreen Version presented in a "matted" widescreen format preserving the aspect ratio of it's original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for Widescreen TVs. This movie has a definite sense of place. There is something about locations that add a coldness to the character's environment. As viewers we really can understand why Francie would be how he is, and how he would come to not trust anyone. Within that though, he is also someone who is highly open to a lot of things, and this movie also expresses that remarkably in scenes from his vivid imagination.
Dolby Digital. English: Dolby Surround 5.1. Close Captioned. The audio on these discs was good but the accents were so thick I had to watch the movie with subtitles. That said, I didn't get to pay attention to the audio as much as I wanted to. I liked the soundtrack that Neil Jordan employed as I think that really took us to a certain time and place within the narrative. Even though this is a pretty simple tale, it is big in scope in terms of what is presented on the screen and the audio very much supports that.
Utilizing a lot of red, we see a figure that looks like the AOL character running across this black on red cover with a bomb for a head. Once you've seen the movie, this all makes a lot more sense. The back cover shows us two pictures from this film, it offers a description, a Special Features listing, a cast list and technical specs. With the simple nature of this cover, it might be a tad too understated for the uninitiated. For those who are familiar with Neil Jordan films, they will find that it's minimal quality works to great effect.
I liked this movie but I couldn't help thinking the Francie Brady character could have done things differently. I guess that makes The Butcher Boy a really strong film because I don't agree with this character, but I can't say how he should have acted differently. Watching this movie it's really hard to root for his behavior, and whenever it seems like he might get where he needs to go, he seems to be the product of his own undoing. However, considering the world and lifestyle that this character was born into, one has to wonder if he ever had a chance?
All in all, I find Neil Jordan to be a very interesting director. His films aren't easy and his movies don't tell well worn tales. He seems to go out of his way as a director to take what seem like straight forwarded narratives, and inflect them with characters who don't easily fit into any category. The Butcher Boy falls well in line with that.
The Butcher Boy was released February 20, 1998.