Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 28/08/2021

BOY #5 [FrightFest 2021]

This low budget indie film has a gritty realism thanks to its stretched purse strings.

Marjorie (Laura Montgomery Bennett) is a social worker who has just lost her latest case. The youngster, a drug addict, killed herself in front of her. The police have brought in a new child they found on the streets. Nathan (Lennon Leckey) isn’t a typical runaway, though. He was discovered hunched over a dog and covered in its blood. Marjorie takes Nathan to a safe house and vows to give him the best support possible. Unfortunately, Nathan’s tastes get the better of him…

Many of the actors in Boy #5 are performing on camera for the first time, but writer/director Eric Steele has lucked out as their seeming awkwardness gives their portrayals a naturalist feel. The film depicts the way the social system can struggle with the people put under their care. It’s an extreme premise, but Marjorie's internal battle with her guilt over the death of her previous youngster. Her reluctance to seek available counselling is indicative of the culture of burying emotions and getting on with things. She finds it hard to fill in the case report of the dead child, deleting her words as if trying to turn back time. The fear of being forced to ‘talk to someone’ leads her to horrific actions as well as going too far to appease the bloodthirsty Nathan.

Ben Ripley’s moody cinematography brilliantly captures the grimy side of Manchester’s nightlife, from dolled-up clubbers to scurrying rats. This contrasts with the clean and ‘safe’ surroundings of the house he’s put in. For a first feature (for most involved), Boy #5 might be a little ragged around the edges, but it’s a compelling drama and mixes the fantastical with realism.