The Butcher Boy (1997) Movie Review

the butcher boy

Title: The Butcher Boy
Year: 1997
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Play time: 1h 50min
Director: Neil Jordan
Starring: Stephen Rea, Fiona Shaw, Eamonn Owens

A movie doesn’t have to have an original idea to be good. It has to go about illustrating that idea in creative ways. The premise of The Butcher Boy has been done before. We’ve all heard of films about homicidal children — Macauley Culkin’s The Good Son, which was a guilty pleasure, and The Bad Seed. But so creative is The Butcher Boy, so interesting, so compelling and so devastating, that the old idea is fresh and new again.

Francie’s Pain and Empathy Towards Their Parents in The Butcher Boy Film

Francie Brady’s (Eammon Owens) life is tough. He lives in the midst of Irish poverty. His mom is a total basketcase, his father is the town drunk. It pains Francie to see his parents disintegrate because he loves them. And then there is Mrs. Nugent, who takes every opportunity to poke fun at Francie and his family, calling them pigs and such. In the voice-over of the adult Francie (Stephen Rea, who also plas Francie’s father) he blames Mrs. Nugent for everything that happens. The stress in his life builds and builds, and we see, piece by piece, his sanity disintegrate. He loses both of his parents and his best friend Joe. The final stage is reached in the brutal but inevitable climax.

Originality at Its Best

This movie goes about bringing its idea to life with bracing originality. First of all, the homicidal kid is the protagonist and not the antagonist. Director Neil Jordan wants us to sympathize with Francie. The film brilliantly mixes humor (if you wanted to stretch it, you could call this film a dark comedy), violence and startling poignancy. Yes, there is some gore, but not as much as some critics made it out to be. But the real discovery in this film are the two kid actors. Eammon Owens brings remarkable depth to his sociopathic character, never over the top, always realistic. Although his time on screen is all too limited, Alan Boyle as Joe, Francie’s friend (at first), is absolutely brilliant, and I am furious that he is not getting the credit that he deserves for this picture. The young actor brings the sincere sadness to the picture. His character wants to separate himself from Francie once he sees what the kid’s becoming. Boyle plays Joe with such amazing poignancy and sincerety that you can’t take your eyes off him, and wish that he would get more screen time. He has the potential to be a great actor, and should not go unnoticed in the future.

The Butcher Boy Gave Unmerciful look at Life

And yes, the film is disturbing, with its violent climax and unmerciful look at life. But it’s also a pleasure to watch — it looks great, with convincing scenery, and it’s also sad, compelling, creative, exciting and suspenseful. It’s top-notch entertainment.

The Butcher Boy represents film at its finest. It is what happens when a great script, brilliant acting, marvelous visual style and good execution (no pun intended — you’ll know what I mean when you see the film) come together. It sucks the viewer in to its world and never lets go. Although it probably won’t get any special recognition, you shouldn’t miss this special film. If this doesn’t make my top ten list, it’s going to be an great rest of the year.

Seeking in movies meaning and reflection in real-time. On the look out for biography, thriller & drama best pieces.

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