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Brendan Behan, a sixteen year-old republican, is going on a bombing mission from Ireland to Liverpool during the second world war. His mission is thwarted when he is apprehended, charged and imprisoned in Borstal, a reform institution for young offenders in East Anglia, England. At Borstal, Brendan is forced to live face-to-face with those he perceived as "the enemy," a confrontation that reveals a deep inner conflict in the young Brendan and forces a self-examination that is both traumatic and revealing. Events take an unexpected turn and Brendan is thrown into a complete spin. In the emotional vortex, he finally faces up to the truth. Written by
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The Broadway production of "Borstal Boy" based on a book by Brendan Behan and adapted for the stage by Frank McMahon opened at the Lyceum Theater in New York on March 31, 1970, ran for 143 performances and won the 1970 Tony Award for Best play. See more »
When Brendan arrives in Liverpool (which is actually London in the movie) he is passed by a London Transport Routemaster bus, a type which did not appear until 1958, though the movie is set in 1942. See more »
I don't know why Pete Sheridan called this nonsense "Borstal Boy," because he tossed out everything that made that story wonderful and deep and human and warm and real and in its place put clichés and stupidity and complete fabrication laced with the worst sort of homophobic condescension and a flat-out insult to the one gay character in the script. All made ten times worse by the fact that Sheridan's an Irish filmmaker who's come up with excellent work in the past. He really should have known...and definitely done...better.
The book begins in 1939 when Brendan Behan's arrested for smuggling bomb-making materials into Liverpool in the early months of WW2. He's 16 years old. The first section deals with the months he spends in jail waiting to be tried for the offense. With his fears. His bravado. His problems with the pro-English Priest. Problems with Dale and the policemen watching over him. The casual brutalization. Friends he makes (he's okay with Charlie being a "poof" from day one, calling each other their "china" and sharing smokes and info and reading material). The details of the day-to-day tedium. The pathetic food. All told with a simple warmth and acceptance and humanity and humor that makes you ache and laugh and sigh at the same time.
None of this is in the movie.
Then Brendan's sent to Borstal -- a Juvenile Detention Center, in US parlance -- where he makes more friends. Works. Learns. Teaches. Has fun. Has trouble. Protects his friends. Deals with his enemies. Grows to be a man. Decides not all the English are bad...something he was already acknowledging was truth. Again, told with a warmth and acceptance and humanity and humor that makes it seem like you're living it yourself.
The movie? A bad Irish version of a Micky Rooney-Judy Garland "Let's put on a show" piece of junk, sort of a "Brendan Does Borstal" tale, told in such a way that everyone can see just how wonderful it is to just get along, and so Brendan can learn that "poofs" are people, too, while there's a fresh pretty girl standing nearby to make sure everybody knows he's not really "that way." And also suffer a stupendously stupid tragedy "of his own making"...not once but twice...and have everyone see how he suffers and try to make him feel better and I WANTED TO VOMIT.
Okay...the acting is decent enough. Shawn Hatosy and Danny Dyer try to bring their characters some depth. And Michael York is always good, even when given drivel to work with. But this movie is a desecration of a beautiful book. There is no other way to put it. And that it was allowed by the Irish Film Board and various other Irish production companies to be linked to this brilliant and eloquent example of great Irish writing (even with the silly disclaimer that it's only "inspired by" that book) is disgraceful.
Shame on you all.
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