Directed by William Brent Bell
Starring Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton & Diana Hardcastle
Film review by Alexander Halsall
What is worse? A movie of no substance floundering and failing with a baffling array of inept sequences one after the next, or a film which shows moments of promise, even executing scenes of both a comic and dramatic nature with skill only for these flashes of potential to evaporate into obscurity leaving you frustrated and disappointed? I apologise for the ‘wordy’ opening, I found the synonyms setting on Microsoft word and am running amok like a drug fuelled Oscar Wilde.
Greta (Lauren Cohan) is a young woman from Montana who has been hired by Mr and Mrs Heelshire (Jim Norton & Diana Hardcastle) to act as a temporary nanny for their son Brahms whilst they take a vacation. When Greta arrives she discovers that Brahms is actually a porcelain doll made in the image of the Heelshire’s son who died over twenty years earlier. Once the Heelshire’s depart strange happenings lead Greta, and the grocery man Malcolm (Rupert Evans), to suspect the doll may in fact be possessed/real/something?
I was left wanting slightly by the opening act of The Boy. The narrative lacked in originality and depth, and the quality of the dialogue was nothing short of inconsistent. I found myself laughing at a couple of moments I don’t believe I should have as the film flailed in desperation to latch onto some form of tonal consistency. This coupled with a pair of attention shanking dream sequences began to sour my generous attitude towards the film. The saving grace was that of some reasonably astute direction, and some fine work by the actors involved who all committed to their roles with admirable aplomb.
Cohan finds her footing following a shaky opening and gives all she has, and more so, to make Greta a sympathetic and understanding character. One scene in particular in which she discusses her tragic past with Malcolm was one of the highlights of the film, the finest myriad of acting, screenwriting and direction I think The Boy has to offer. Norton and Hardcastle are both terrific in their small, underwritten, parts. They utilise all of their experience to effortlessly portray the disturbed, emotionally wrought, couple to brilliant effect. Evans is also charming, and occasionally humorous, as Malcolm and watching his and Greta’s burgeoning relationship forming around her caring of Brahms is the strongest aspect of the film. At times I couldn’t help but be reminded of the early work of Guillermo Del Toro from a thematic perspective. I wouldn’t say The Boy comes close to executing something of that standard, but it did begin to surprise me with the route it was appearing to take. The Boy was at its most unnerving when it wasn’t trying to focus on making you jump, and it began to concentrate on building a tense, unsettling narrative which was beginning to pleasantly appeal to me.
Then the third act happened. I felt like a parent having to give their child a stern telling off. “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed”. I saw glimpses of quality, through the acting and direction, and some small parts of the narrative, only to watch these moments dissipate before my eyes in a most catastrophically appalling fashion. I’m sorry to say I can’t really recommend The Boy despite the positives I have listed above, as it implodes into nonsense in the last twenty minutes. The experience has left me saddened, distressed, dismayed, demoralised, downcast, perturbed and altogether unsure if even Microsoft word has enough synonyms to articulate how disconcerted The Boy has made me feel.