The Butcher Boy

Pigs is Pigs

Director Neil Jordan has delivered his best film so far, a wildly entertaining tale of a boy gone bad.

Francie Brady (Eamonn Owens) is a remarkably untroubled youngster growing up in a troubled Irish home in the early 1960s. Well, maybe not completely untroubled, but he puts a good face on things. His father (Stephen Rea) is a failed musician and a drunken sot that terrorizes his wife (Aisling O’Sullivan) to the point that she loses her mind. Mrs. Brady’s suicide attempt may have landed her in “the garage” mental hospital, but Francie knows that she’ll be right as rain after a tune-up and head tightening. And that gossipy Mrs. Nugent (Fiona Shaw) may look down her nose and make trouble for Francie and his family, but it doesn’t take much for a clever boy like Francie to teach her a lesson.

The real lesson is one the townspeople take way too long to learn: that clever Francie puts on the face of a jolly but mischievous rascal, just another dear small town eccentric – but underneath he’s going steadily and decidedly insane.

There are plenty of movies recounting descents into homicidal madness, but most are sour affairs. Jordan takes the Trainspotting route, putting a fun spin on a serious subject and embarking on frequent flights of fancy, such as casting Sinead O’Connor for a series of visitations by the Holy Virgin Mary. Most impressive is the great performance given by young Owens in his film debut. He’s in nearly every frame and he attacks the role gamely throughout.Veteran Milo O’Shea’s pops up as a pervert priest.

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