A Fine Film - Please See It
I rented this because I had interest in Brendan Behan. Well, I was
surprised by this film.
Shawn Hatosy is brilliant as a young Behan. You must see him in this
I was completely taken away with the story and the characters. The
actors all are believable and true.
It does concern the IRA which I know little about. This takes place
during WW II and it is interesting that the Behan character, although
very primal and dedicated to his commitment to the Irish Republic, does
in fact concede, given the far more devastating events happening in the
wider sphere of the world, that for a time at least he is willing to
'lay down arms' and not resist.
I must mention the music. I am sorry I do not know the name of the
composer, but it is superb and appropriately atmospherically Irish at
the right times. The songs are all wonderful especially the ending song
which one also hears at a truly pivotal and emotional point near the
end of the film.
I don't talk or write much. I just love this film. I high recommend it
to people who like character-driven films..
Inept is a kind way of putting it.
"Borstal Boy" (the book) is a classic example of great Irish
storytelling. Some fact mixed with a bit of exaggeration and a dollop
of warmth told with a wonderful manipulation of language to bring you
to the final destination of truth and awakening. All best done while
having a pint of Guiness or Stout. The journey is the best part,
because you're made to believe you're traveling with friends and people
you want to know, but one never loses sight of the total story.
So here we have a 16 year-old Irishman who thinks he knows everything
he needs to know about the British and what scum they are. Blindly
trusting his "compatriots" in the IRA, he smuggles bomb-making
materials into England during WW2, thinking he's doing a great thing.
He's caught, tried and sent to jail, during which he learns the British
are not the complete bastards he's been lead to believe they are, and
that his pals back in Ireland really don't really care that much about
him. He forms friendships in juvenile hall (Borstal is the British
version of it) with some of the English boys he's in with as well as
the guards, finds other boys and guards are weasels and not to be
trusted by anyone, and does his time as if it were a vacation of sorts.
There are even hints in the book that the friendship between Brendan
and Charlie Milwall, his best mate in Borstal, was more than that...but
it's presented in such a subtle and beautiful way, you really can't say
for sure. But that's the perfection of this book -- how the language is
used to hint at things without saying them outright, letting you join
in on Brendan's journey and build your own version of what may or may
not have happened.
That said, this movie is a disgrace to that book. I honestly cannot
believe it even got made, not with the script they used. It is the most
blatant example I have ever seen of "caring" people setting out to make
a "grand statement" about how we're all human beings and we should just
get along...and doing it in the most insipid way possible. What was
lovely in the book is made crass and simplistic and false in this
movie. Brendan never had a problem with Charlie being gay. He even
walked behind him during exercises and commented to himself on the
clean line of his neck. But in the movie, Brendan snarls at Charlie to
keep away from him and puts him down for being a poof. In the book, he
snipes at a Catholic Priest about the church's support of English
control of Ireland; in the movie, he makes his grand speech against
oppression at a magistrate, which diminishes it greatly. In the book,
he's already literate and aware; in the movie, he's presented as
someone who needs to have his intellect expanded. It just goes on and
on...and that's not to mention the ludicrous made-up scene where
Brendan escapes and leads some fellow borstal boys straight into a
minefield so they can be blown to bits and he can feel bad...which only
makes him look like a complete idiot. And the addition of a pretty girl
-- at an all boys' jail?! Do these filmmakers have ANY idea of how
WRONG that is? To be blunt, inept is a kind way of putting it.
Now Shawn Hatosy does an all right job as Brendan. Sometimes his
mumbles are hard to follow and he seems to be mainly one-note for much
of the movie, but he's not an embarrassment. And Danny Dyer does well
with a badly written role. Michael York is given little to do but be
there, which is a criminal waste of a fine actor. No one else makes any
As for the script -- it was "Syd Field 101" and below average for that,
and Nye Heron only proves that being Irish is no guarantee of being a
good storyteller. And the co-writer/ director, Pete Sheridan...he shows
no talent for either writing or directing. Fact is, I think the only
reason he got to make this movie was because he's related to Jim
Sheirdan (someone who's also willing to twist the facts in his
"fact-based" movies, but at least knows how to do it well).
The only excuse I can find for this movie to have been made is...well,
there is no excuse. Anyone who likes this movie has never read the book
it's based on. Hell, they've probably never read anything more
demanding than "Goodnight Moon." But for those who care about good
storytelling, DO read the book. Please. And trust me -- your memory of
it will be ten times better than anything you might get out of this