Thursday, 30 April 2015

A Boy Called Dad (2009)

A Boy Called Dad is a well intentioned but somewhat disappointing 2009 film was the feature debut of director Brian Percival who went on to helm 2013's The Book Thief.

From a script by Julie Rutterford (who he had previously teamed up with for the Bafta winning 2001 short About a Girl) A Boy Called Dad stars Ian Hart as feckless painter and decorator Joe, who walked out of the Wirral home he shared with his wife (Louise Delamere) and son Robbie when the latter was just four years old. Fast forward 10 years and Robbie played by newcomer Kyle Ward - for whom this is, so far, his sole credit - is a 14-year-old who having got a girl from school (The Mill's Sacha Parkinson) pregnant during a fumble in a bus shelter has just become a father himself. 

Father and son haven’t seen each other in a decade, but Robbie immediately recognises his dad during a chance encounter one day from family photos. It is the humour and awkwardness displayed between Hart and Ward as both fumble towards a relationship with one another in those early scenes that deliver the film its sharpness and warmth as well as its message about broken families and having a child too soon.  But it soon becomes apparent that the film has a problem, it believes it needs to go somewhere and unfortunately - maybe as a desire to write something suitably big for the big screen – where it goes is to the wild and outlandish with Robbie rescuing his baby from the gymslip mum's thuggish new fella and going on the run with it to Wales. The main failing here is that the film is robbed of Hart's presence. It's a real shame the production didn't have the nerve to stick with their uneasy relationship and the social message it hopes to convey because if it did it might have just been something comparable to Ken Loach.

Overall, this is a suitably gritty but largely melodramatic contemporary British drama that runs to just 75 minutes. As a result I can't help but feel it might have worked a bit better as a made for TV - indeed, with some excising of foul language and sex scenes/references to knock it down to 60 minutes say this would easily fit into the BBC's afternoon series of Merseyside filmed dramas Moving On.

If there's a reason to watch A Boy Called Dad it's the acting which is impossible to fault, and of course, chiefly that of Ian Hart; time spent watching Hart is never truly time wasted.

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