Director: Trevor White
Cast: James Woods, Mary-Louise Parker, Ving Rhames, Taissa Farmiga, Taboo, Spencer Lofranco
Release Date: Janury 17th 2014
There are moments in the new drama Jamesy Boy that are so dispiriting that the main character simply wants to give up and accept the downward spiral he’s been on for most of his young life. He believes he will end up always being the law-breaking, order fresh-faced punk he’s spent so much of his life becoming. “You haven’t ended up as anything yet, website like this ” his mother Tracy (Mary-Louise Parker) wisely notes and this feature— based on a true story— shows how true that statement really is.
When we first meet James (Spencer Lofranco), visit web he’s recently arrived in prison and has already fought another inmate and been beaten down by a guard. The story then flashes back to three years earlier when Tracy was fighting a system that had already– despite her son’s age–decided her son’s fate. Authority figures, personified by officials at the local public school, have seen James’ criminal record and want nothing to do with him.
As the story unfolds, they are proven correct– to an extent. James spends his days in high school making terrible decisions and becoming involved with a dangerous gang of thugs and miscreants. Interspersed with these scenes of James’ fall are those depicting him in prison a few years later, after he’s been convicted of drug possession, selling a firearm and the illegal possession of a firearm. It’s in prison where we see him befriending a lowly new inmate named Chris (Ben Rosenfield) and beginning to turn his life around. From the moment Chris walks into the prison yard, it’s obvious that his fresh looks, his naïve sensibilities and his fragile personality will become the target for the other prisoners but James looks out for him, despite the trouble it causes.
Lofranco, in the lead role here, appears in nearly every scene (if not all of them) and is tasked with creating a character whose tumultuous background has led him down a terrible path. Although the role seems a bit too overwhelming for the young actor at times, it’s in some of the feature’s most delicate scenes that he steps up and proves more than capable of acting opposite Parker, who turns in a wonderful supporting performance here. Rosenfield, who resembles Anton Yelchin, also excels in the few scenes he’s in. Ving Rhames appears as well in an underwritten role as an inmate–capable of murder– who seemingly has turned the corner in his life, albeit after it’s too late.
Admittedly, the plot—at times— feels formulaic but it’s hard not to be pulled into James’ world, where people’s lack of faith in him help push him into a dangerous environment. As a child, he made some poor choices and has been paying for them ever since. After all, few people believed he was capable of anything more. It’s to the credit of the cast and the filmmakers here that this redemption tale rings true and creates an empathy for the main character that may not otherwise exist.
With its depiction of violence, Jamesy Boy might not be for everyone but Trevor White, who co-wrote and directed the picture, has done a fine job here of telling a character-driven story that always keeps you involved and rooting for its title character.
Review by: John Hanlon