Movies about ex-convicts and their difficulty assimilating back into society generally begin with the prison release, during which the protagonist typically looks downright miserable. At first thought, I recall the opening of Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66, which ironically exaggerates the hopelessness of post-incarceration by adding a lack of a public restroom to the list of things the former jailbird is without. But at the beginning of John Crowley's new film, Boy A, the titular young man being turned back into the world is high-browed and smiling from ear to ear. And this change from the expected norm really drew me into the film immediately.
Perhaps the difference is that for most films about ex-cons, the hero doesn't have a very good chance at starting over. For "Boy A," however, there's a literal reinvention taking place. In the first scene, the young man (Andrew Garfield) sits with his caseworker, Terry (Peter Mullan), and discusses the details of his release, which include his receiving a new home, a new job and, most importantly, a new identity -- he chooses the name "Jack." Also, rather symbolically, Terry hands Jack a gift, a pair of sneakers that unintentionally represents the young man's ability to comfortably run away from his former life.