Boy #5


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Boy #5
"A haunting and ambiguous take on the vampire myth." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

In 2019, 2,725 children needed help to secure temporary accommodation in Manchester. The city has the biggest youth homelessness problem outside London, and all too often, young people get the immediate assistance they need only to end up back on the streets again. Troubled family lives, drug and alcohol use and experiences of violence make it difficult for many of them to form or maintain positive connections, but those who dedicate their lives to trying to help them understand that they ae just kids, no matter how difficult their behaviour may be. If they can be reached, they can still be shown that they are valued, and persuaded to value themselves.

When the police find Nathan (Lennon Leckey) slumped in a back alley biting the neck of a dead dog they don’t hide their disgust, yet it’s clear that they’ve seen worse. A few hours later, the boy is handed over to social worker Marjorie (Laura Montgomery Bennett), who recognises his fear and confusion and gradually coaxes him to speak. She finds him a place in a suitable shelter and spends the next few days trying to persuade him that she’s on his side. it’s tough work, but nothing she hasn’t done before. The trouble is that Marjorie has recently had to deal with the fatal overdose of another child in her care, which has left her in a vulnerable emotional state herself. And Nathan – well, he may not be just another abandoned teenager after all.

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Most of the film plays out as a two-hander between the highly capable leads. It’s Bennett’s first ever acting role yet she delivers one of the most impressive performances to be seen at this year’s Frightfest. Marjorie’s very practical, down to earth approach feels utterly believable, but she’s not stupid, and she quickly reads between the lines. Of course, when Nathan begins to open up, she doesn’t take it at face value. What is his obsession with drinking blood? Did he get it from a book or a film? She worries that a serious delusion is keeping him from eating, when anyone can see that he’s underweight and probably anaemic. As they start to bond, she recognises that she’s at risk of crossing a line in her efforts to help this boy, failing to adhere to the rules that keep her from losing her perspective, but whatever else is going on, he’s in desperate need, and she may be the only one able to help.

A haunting and ambiguous take on the vampire myth which recalls George Romero’s Martin, Boy #5 explores what it really means to take responsibility for a child and put that child’s needs first. It also reflects on the way that problems can go unseen in children’s lives when systems rely on assumptions and try to fit complex individuals into neat categories. This contributes to an undercurrent of aching loneliness fuelled by viewers’ awareness that whatever the true nature of Nathan’s problems, there are thousands of real life children experiencing the same sense of exclusion, distrust and hopelessness. Even if he’s genuinely dangerous – a possibility which writer/director Eric Steele never lets us forget – he didn’t choose this life, and he seems to experience the same longing for connection that anyone might.

There are a couple of shaky supporting performances here but overall it’s remarkable what Steele has achieved on a low budget. This isn’t just a decent achievement under the circumstances – it’s a film which serious genre fans should make an effort to seek out, and the first really important contribution to cinema’s take on vampire mythology for a long time.

Reviewed on: 30 Aug 2021
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A social worker takes a withdrawn homeless boy into her care, not suspecting that he is a kind of mutant vampire.

Director: Eric Steele

Writer: Eric Steele

Starring: Tosca Bell, Laura Montgomery Bennett, Brian Dunne, Omayah El Habti, Michael Kehoe

Year: 2020

Runtime: 72 minutes

Country: UK


Frightfest 2021

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