The Butcher Boy

Memphis Flyer

DIRECTED BY: Neil Jordan

REVIEWED: 05-11-98

A comedy about a kid descending into madness doesn’t sound very amusing, but director Neil Jordan has a way of sneaking it in on you in The Butcher Boy.

Eomonn Owens and Stephen Rea in The Butcher Boy.

The kid is one Francie Brady (Eamonn Owens), a 12-year-old Irish lad of the early Sixties with a mop of red hair and the disposition of a tornado. Francie has come up with a coping mechanism to deal with his horrific surroundings – his dad’s a drunk, his mother’s suicidal – by making more trouble than what he sees at home. He’s set up a world where the enemy is an uptight neighbor woman, Mrs. Nugent (Fiona Shaw) and his only ally is his friend Joe (Alan Boyle). Francie has set out to destroy Mrs. Nugent by harassing her son and then by entering her home, smashing her cakes, defacing her property with lipstick, and finally defecating on the floor. His actions get him sent away to a Catholic boys’ home, where he rules. But when Francie gets a letter from Joe saying that he’s been fraternizing with Mrs. Nugent’s son, Francie’s psyche develops a crack and the Virgin Mary (played by Sinead O’Connor) begins to speak to him.

Owens gives a terrific, energetic performance as the manic Francie. He twirls and screams and pounces on men twice his size. He cannot be contained. His actions bespeak a truly lost soul. But his rapid-fire antics leave no time for much sympathy so that, consequently, the brutal climax comes as something of a shock and makes The Butcher Boy the most heartbreaking comedy around.

--Susan Ellis

Capsule Reviews
The Butcher Boy
The Butcher Boy

Other Films by Neil Jordan
In Dreams
Interview With the Vampire
Michael Collins
The End of the Affair

Film Vault Suggested Links
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Bringing Out the Dead

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