It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Neil Jordan's "The Butcher Boy'' tells the story of an Irish boy who turns violent and insane under the pressure of a tragic childhood and a sense of betrayal. By the end of the film, when he acts out his murderous fantasies, I was thinking of course about the shooting spree by the two young boys in Jonesboro.
This film is, in a sense, optimistic. It suggests that children must undergo years of horrible experiences before they turn into killers. The Jonesboro shooters were apparently more fortunate: more or less normal kids raised with guns, and unable to understand the consequences of their actions. We want to believe that violent kids have undergone emotional torments like Francie Brady, the young hero of "The Butcher Boy.'' If they haven't, then the abyss is closer than we think.
The film takes place in the early 1960s, in a small town in the west of Ireland. It is narrated by Francie, who is played by the newcomer Eamonn Owens in one of the cockiest and most confident performances I've seen by a young actor. Francie's homelife is not happy. His father (Stephen Rea) is a drunk who turns violent, kicks in the TV and weeps for the lost innocence of his days before whiskey.
His mother (Aisling O'Sullivan) is suicidal; one day Francie comes home from school to find a chair on the kitchen table, and his ma preparing to hang herself.