The Boy is an elegant picture of a sociopath in the making. We usually see these people only after they become adults, or at least teenagers. But this film illustrates very well some of the antecedents of a disturbed personality. Ted (Breeze) lost his mother when she decided to move to Florida on her own “in one of those moving trucks you drive yourself”, he explains. His dad (Morse) owns a motel that he inherited from his father in an isolated area, and he proudly announces that Ted will someday be the owner/manager. Ted has other plans, however, as we shall soon see. In the meantime, with a bright and curious mind, he entertains himself by attending to animals, by exploring his surroundings, and by trying to connect with the transitional guests of the motel. But it is obvious that he is lonely and craves nurturing contact. His mother is gone; his father is an alcoholic and has no idea about what good fathering entails, and he appears not to go to school (maybe this takes place in the summer), so doesn’t have that outlet for socialization. He is primarily with his own mind, which includes some attitudes passed along to him by his father.
The film, based on Clay McLeod Chapman’s novel and directed by Craig Williams Macneill, who helped with the script, carefully puts the viewer in the mind of the child Ted. At first we see a hint of hostility and the strange habit of collecting dead animals and disposing of them, for which he receives payments from his father. The child already has figured out a way to increase his income. As time goes on, we witness more and more disturbing behavior, which sometimes calls for a confession, but gradually Ted learns how to focus the blame on someone else.
Another disturbing aspect of Ted is that he can be very thoughtful, kind, and helpful; but alas, this is usually functional; it’s a way for him to get what he wants. On first meeting Ted, he appears to be a sweet, responsible child who helps his dad maintain the motel, and in his fantasies in front of the mirror, he is a welcoming concierge. Some of the guests, however, figure out what lies behind that persona and become enraged with him.
Breeze owns this role perfectly, and he and the experienced Morse lend a telling but sad picture of their father-son relationship. Wilson, too, performs beautifully the dark, reticent figure with a shady past. They and the other characters move the suspenseful story along as the audience sits transfixed, curious to see the ending, but with feelings of dread.
Cinematography by Noah Greenberg is hauntingly beautiful, and the music by Volker Bertelmann is good, but a bit heavy-handed in its ominous tones.
A thriller worthy of the genre.
Grade: A- By Donna R. Copeland