American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Eric was a pre-adolescent with a violent streak and the wrong kind of friend in Phillip. Together, they murdered a girl about their age, and were put on trial as Boy A and Boy B. They were essentially evil, the prosecutor argued, and deserved the maximum legal sentence. Phillip died in prison. Now Eric, at 24, has been paroled and given a new identity: Jack Burridge.
"Boy A" is based on a novel by Jonathan Trigell, possibly inspired by the real-life British case of two youths seen on a shopping mall's security video as they led away a child who was found dead. Such cases raise the question: Are children who murder indeed essentially evil, or can they heal and change over a period of years? Should society give them a second chance?
That is the fervent belief of Terry (Peter Mullen), the rehabilitation counselor for the renamed Jack (Andrew Garfield). He lectures Jack that he must never, ever reveal his secret. He believes Jack has changed, but society doesn't believe it and will crucify him. So warned, Jack takes a delivery job with a Manchester firm, and begins his new life.
Mullen and Garfield anchor the film. Mullen, that splendid Scottish actor ("My Name Is Joe") and Garfield, 24, with his boyish face and friendly grin. When Jack is rebuilding his existence, Terry is his lifeline, who encourages him almost daily. At first the new job goes well. He makes a friend of his job partner, Chris (Shaun Evans). And Michelle (Katie Lyons), the secretary at the office, boldly asks, "Aren't you going to ask me out for a drink, then?"