Boy A is a modern drama, entwined with a crime story and told with great humanity.
Adding bookmarks on the main plot points, using Everytime Desktop app, allowed me to understand its structure better. It now appears much simpler than it used to.
Jack meets several people on his way to get a new life. But the main ones in this story are the following:
That’s it. Only five characters are needed to get the main essence and each one has serves a very specific function.
Here is what the main scenes could be grouped into:
From the first shot, first sentence, we are presented with a mystery. “How do you feel?” “Feels like a dream.” We understand Eric/Jack has a dark past, but we don’t know the extend of it. We are more absorbed by the genuine excitation this young man has to start his life.
One key element I take from breaking down this structure is when we learn Jack was found guilty of murder. We only learn that half way through the movie.
Why so late? Certainly not for the sake of additional suspense. It was so we could get emotionally attached to Jack. Had we learned it at the very beginning, there was no way we could have any empathy through his struggle to get a normal life.
But until that key moment, we have seen him stress out about mundane things and struggle with basic life moments. He goes through each scene with a heavy and still unknown secret. This makes us appreciate the courage his character needs every day. And on top of that, flashbacks show us his younger life, where he was bullied and completely disregarded by his parents.
So when we finally learn about the nature of his crime, we cannot help but want him to be able to continue his life.
What is also interesting is how low key this revelation is. It is maybe the most calm scene in the movie. Characters are not moving, only sitting and eating in this uncomfortable position. They are not speaking either, only watching television. I can perfectly imagine other movies where such a revelation would have happened with more drama.
Could we have learned about the murder later? Probably not, it would have been less efficient. Learning about it now tells us that even if we are happy for him to be able to find a normal life, his demons are going to come after him and they are growing. The timing here was just right.
We also get to see glimpses of both his childhood and the moments that led to the murder. We could have seen moments at different times of his life, but they are here very close to each others, so close I wonder if they all happened within the same day.
Eric is always very passive in each of those scene. He never shows hints of violence. His only mistake is to accept Philip’s friendship, who certainly did not immediately appear as an evil character.
The way the violence increases is also interesting.
Also, despite being surrounded by very evil character, this movie gives us reasons to understand them. We cannot forgive them, but we are given elements that prevent us from forgetting they are humans, also victims of the world around them.
Several choices made for this movie, regarding what we do or do not see, are very interesting.
We never see the trial defence. We only see the accusation lawyer, making a speech rich in rhetoric and the crowd full of hate. Was there a defence? Certainly not in Eric’s memories. No one appeared to understand the circumstances of the events, not even the parents.
The mob after him stays invisible. We never know who are the murdered girl’s relatives. Their faces are not show in the trial, they stay off screen. We are never shown people looking out for him when he is out of prison. We only see tv broadcasts or newspaper articles where the only face is his portrait. This is another clever choice, just like in Alien, as what we cannot see is what we fear the most. We cannot judge the extent of the forces who are looking out for him. We cannot have any idea if he has a chance to survive.