The Space Boy
12 Sep 2021
Fred Trenholme, Zak Shetewei, Luke Martin
You could be forgiven for thinking that, with a title like The Space Boy, Cai Tinsley’s film would be a feelgood family sci-fi rather than a gritty and tragic drama set in small-town suburbia. But regardless of its setting, this disappointing short story experiences catastrophic malfunctions from straight from lift-off.
Troubled youth Scott (Fred Trunholme) is interviewed at a police station by hardened detective James Grace (Heath Muirhead). The officer is investigating an incident involving Scott and his friends, and their space-obsessed classmate Kody (Zak Shetewei). Through a series of flashbacks, Scott’s bullying of Kody is revealed, and the series of events that led to a tragedy is recounted as Scott desperately tries to hide a dark secret.
From its’ beginning, The Space Boy never really figures out what it wants to be. The film lacks any consistent theme or message, beyond vague anti-bullying principles and underdeveloped asides to mental health and personal battles. The film cannot even seem to decide on its protagonist – with the majority of the film spent with Scott, but most of the characterisation given to his victim Kody. The story is incoherent, and never seems to be following any kind of clear path – with confusing intercuts between past and present an additional complication for viewers.
The film’s dialogue is painful at times, and the cast completely fail to deliver their poorly written lines convincingly. It’s the film’s weakest element by far, and the overload of exposition becomes distractingly stagy as the film drags on. Heath Muirhead’s performance as Detective Grace suffers the least from this, but the rest of the cast end up sounding like programmed androids speaking with the same voice – only able to vocalise their own inner-monologue or next intentions.
Despite only a 30-minute runtime, the film drags badly, with its unconventional story structure a hinderance rather than a help. The film’s key development is revealed around half way through, robbing the rest of the story of its primary intrigue. The fact that the film then follows Scott – who is largely a reprehensible figure from our experience of him, places the audience in the awkward position of routing against the active protagonist. It becomes and unpleasant watch, with little to invigorate viewers outside of hoping for the dour Detective Grace to deliver justice – and the lack of any connection we are given even to him make this an almost procedural task in of itself.
The film’s approach to certain twists is also eye-rolling and borderline offensive – designed it seems solely to taint Scott and Astro-turf unearned tragedy into the story. Scott’s friend Ellie’s (Sheya McAllister’s) fate is sprung from nowhere and reinforces dangerous stereotypes around her action and its link to outside sources. At another end of the scale, the reveal of Kody’s turmoil prior to his interaction with Scott feels manufactured and forced, not to mention completely disproportionate to what the film had set up. What seems to have been included to draw parallels between Scott and Kody feels tone-death in its execution and feels like a botched ending – which is at least consistent with the rest of the film’s quality.
It’s hard to pinpoint what the point of The Space Boy is, or where its heart is – beyond acting as a half-hearted revenge fantasy against childhood bullies. A confusing plot, and dreadful dialogue, make this a waste of half an hour.