"The Butcher Boy" is a horrifying, disturbing, jarring film, and one so utterly fascinating that I couldn't stop watching it as much as it upset me. Eamonn Owens plays Francie Brady, a lower class Irish kid in the early 1960's who comes from a classically dysfunctional family. His father (Stephen Rea) is a mentally and physically abusive drunk and his mother is suicidal. Young Francie has to shoulder the responsibility for keeping this car wreck together. When a tragedy occurs and his father blames him for it, his already raging anger is set loose in a steadily escalating series of social transgressions that lead to a terrible climax, wherein he takes his revenge on the woman he irrationally blames for all of his problems.
Owens, who could must have been in his early teens when the film was made, is incredible as Francie. He is not a pleasant boy to be around, yet I found Owens' performance so full of exuberance and pathos that I came to care about Francie. Owens definitely needs to keep in acting. He has tremendous talent.
Tying the film together is the outstanding narration of Stephen Rea as the adult Francie, who takes us through his unusual life as he recounts what led to his being incarcerated in the "Garage" (an asylum) for a number of years. Rea is absolutely cheeky in his narration and it works perfectly. He is by turns cynical, flip, self-deprecating, and audacious. I saw this film last week and still find myself wanting to say, "And the Francie Brady Not a Bad...Award goes to!" just as Rea does throughout the film. I could listen to Rea talk for hours and never cease being amazed and enchanted.
Neil Jordan is an innovative, daring film maker. If you have the stomach for it, get "The Butcher Boy". You'll never forget it.