Irish filmmaking has always resonated with an urgent sense of political forethought. Filmmaker Jim Sheridan diligently championed the determined spirit of tortured protagonists in gutsy pictures such as My Left Foot, The Boxer, and In the Name of the Father. In the uplifting Emerald Isle melodrama Borstal Boy, Jim's brother Peter Sheridan effectively explores the trials and tribulations of a 16-year old boy's exploits behind the unbearable confines of a British World War II borstal, a reformatory center for boys, based on charismatic Irish writer Brendan Behan's memoir. Provocative and resoundingly crafty, Borstal Boy is a solid and refined piece of moviemaking imbued with passion and attitude.
Thanks to his heavy involvement in IRA-related activities, the film opens with Brendan (Shawn Hatosy, Anywhere But Here, John Q) in jail in East Anglia, England. Among the prison-camp personalities that the overwhelmed Brendan encounters are a thieving gay sailor named Millwall (Danny Dyer), whom he eventually. He also finds a love interest in the lovely and supportive Liz (Eva Birthistle), who happens to be the daughter of the facility's presiding Governor (Michael York). Consequently, Brendan begins to shape his outlook on life, challenging what was once a rigid belief system entrenched in his conservative shell.
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