Song for a Raggy Boy

Rural Ireland, 1939: Just returned from serving with the International Brigades in Spain, William Franklin (Quinn) takes up a teaching post at a boys' reformatory run by the Roman Catholic church. Making strides at improving literacy, he's soon locked in conflict with disciplinarian Brother John (Glen), whose evident brutality is nevertheless more visible than the abuses taking place behind closed doors. Historical distance may keep events in this adaptation of Patrick Galvin's autobiographical novel somewhat removed from its still urgent issues, but the catalogue of corporal punishment is undeniably harrowing. The film is most effective when wielding the strap, and merely workmanlike in other crucial areas. Comparisons with The Magdalene Sisters are instructive; the subject matter is not dissimilar, but whereas Mullan empathetically shaped the drama from the victims' point of view, the boys here are characterised less richly. The focus is firmly on the tussle between institutional repression and liberalising ideas, an emphasis unfortunately serving to underline the script's black-and-white schematising. Still, praise is due for Glen's scarily buttoned down enforcer and newcomer John Travers' artful dodger.

Release details

Duration: 100 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Aisling Walsh
Screenwriter: Aisling Walsh, Kevin Byron-Murphy
Cast: Aidan Quinn
Iain Glen
Marc Warren
Dudley Sutton
Alan Devlin
Stuart Graham
John Travers
Chris Newman
Andrew Simpson
Mark Butler
Bernard Manning
Samuel Bright

Average User Rating

5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|1
1 person listening