One man's stand against brutality in an Irish boys' Reformatory

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Score 3

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Song For A Raggy Boy

OPENS APRIL 2, CERT 15, 97 MINS

Castletown, Ireland, 1939:fleeing the Spanish civil war, William Franklin (Aidan Quinn) is appointed the first lay teacher of St Jude’s, a school for ‘wayward’ boys. Franklin’s flashbacks of a Spanish Royalist death squad soon merge with the fascistic system of punishment and abuse run by school prefect Brother John (lain Glen). Scripted by Patrick Galvin from his novel of the same name, itself based on a true story, this is a daunting portrayal of child cruelty within the Irish Catholic church. Director Aisling Walsh depicts St Jude’s as an obvious but shrewdly drawn metaphor for the gathering international fight against fascism. Franklin’s teaching methods?based on trust?bring him into direct conflict with Glen, as does his past in Spain. Quinn convinces as a good man wrestling demons and Glen’s impressive as a petty tyrant fuelled by hate. Not as devastating a condemnation of authoritarian Catholicism as Peter Mullan’s The Magdalene Sisters, but still a thoughtful rendering of a harrowing tale.