A Boy Called Dad (2009) Review:

Strange name to give your child.

A boy and a boy called dad.
A boy and a boy called dad.

Cast: Kyle Ward, Ian Hart, Louise Delamere, Charlene McKenna, Sacha Parkinson, et al…

Director: Brian Percival

Runtime: 90 minutes

Plot (taken from IMDb): When he becomes a father at the tender age of 14, Robbie’s life quickly spirals out of control. Feeling angry and neglected by his own dad, he kick-starts a series of events that will catapult him at great speed into adulthood.

Why is the north of England always grey, miserable and depressing in movies? A Boy Called Dad follows this tradition, but oh my, does it grab you. Brian Percival’s grim tale of a child from a broken home in Liverpool is dark, powerful and holds your attention.

Robbie (Kyle Ward) had a kid at the age of 14 and it all kind of spiralled out of control, he becomes aggressive and has issues with his drinking, gambling dad. No, the characters aren’t ground-breaking and the plot does sound like something out of Eastenders, but the way the plot is handled and carried forward is expert – lofted above normal perhaps by the performances in the film.

Kyle Ward in particular gives a stellar performance as Robbie, in an understated performance he gives outstanding emotional range; he looks scared, determined angry, tired and loving for his baby in one of the best teenage performances I have ever seen. Robbie’s dad, Joe (Ian Hart) also is a fine performance, giving Robbie’s character meaningful development throughout – indeed, you feel sorry for Joe while also feeling angry at the mistakes he made.

Good ol' fashioned wall staring.
Good ol’ fashioned wall staring.

Despite the dark and somewhat aggressive nature of A Boy Called Dad, it is heart-warming. This is because of the direction and acting, which make you feel for each character. However, I do feel once the film hits North Wales it loses a little of its spark, it slows down and not a huge amount happens. It is a bit of shame that we spend a large amount of time in North Wales as that section of the film just feels like it drags on a little. If five or so minutes were cut from the start of the North Wales part of the film A Boy Called Dad would be improved just enough.

Despite this, some of the time spent in North Wales is not wasted. Indeed, the love story in Wales is not bad (although it doesn’t add anything in terms of story progression), allowing us to see Robbie turn from a desperate case to a good father (unlike his dad) for his baby. I won’t divulge what happens for Robbie to end up in Wales instead of Liverpool, but rest assured, watching the film is worth it.

Throughout the film, the cinematography is good, giving the film exactly the dark, damp and grey look that was required for the story being told. Some shots in Wales however are quite striking, making whatever area they were in look quite stunning. However, fine performances, good camerawork and good direction don’t quite hold A Boy Called Dad throughout.

Grassy.
Grassy.

The writing of A Boy Called Dad is not the best; it often shifts into “pointless melodrama” mode; the main two cast members do well with the script despite this. The film wants to be realistic, but at times (particularly once it moves into Wales) it seems overly dramatic; I can’t quite believe that there are people out there who would ever get themselves in situations like those depicted in the film and then spend quite a while not talking about it. The ending of the movie is not brilliant either; you are left feeling unsure about what happened to the main characters – I feel like the film should have ended stronger, but what we were given struck me as somewhat overly dramatic and over the top.

Summary:

A Boy Called Dad is a powerful, emotional film hampered by its overly melodramatic screenplay despite its good cinematography, direction and stellar performances from its two main actors. At times it is a little too dark or even a little too ridiculous, but its heart is in the right place and we are given an ultimately emotional tale.

Not quite as good as it wants to be, A Boy Called Dad pulls the right emotional strings.

79/100

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