Review: ‘Boy Interrupted’

'Boy Interrupted'

Mournful, beautifully put together film about a mentally ill 15-year-old who committed suicide.

Mournful, pained and beautifully put together, “Boy Interrupted” is about a mentally ill 15-year-old who committed suicide, and the pic could only have been made by his parents. Docu is, in fact, such an immersion in pain that had anyone other than Dana and Hart Perry cut this elegiac little gem, those filmmakers would be accused of grief exploitation. HBO has the film, and that’s probably best: Perhaps families will watch together and share a good cry.

Because director Dana Perry and her cinematographer husband, Hart, are filmmakers, the life of their first child together, Evan, wasn’t just recorded — it was recorded well. And they captured more than most parents might — even those moments in which Evan seems a little “off,” as Dana Perry says. Even as a young boy, Evan had a matter-of-fact way of talking about death, and there were even instances of acting out suicide. Depression plagued him all his life, as did a bipolar condition that demanded medication.

Perry takes a long time establishing Evan’s personality and the good qualities that never quite defined the boy well enough. (His illness defined him as different — and made him more depressed.) It doesn’t take very long before the viewer is aware the Perrys had to make the film in order to exorcise their demons. They know logically they’re not to blame, but emotional absolution is harder to achieve.

Handsome, intelligent and charming, Evan Perry — without the benefit of “Boy Interrupted” — would be a complete mystery: A kid with everything kills himself? But the purpose of the Perrys’ film is to strip away some of that mystery, reveal the agony such families go through and the vigilance needed to protect their most vulnerable members from themselves.

Production is fine, highlighted by Geof Bartz’s editing.

Boy Interrupted


An HBO Documentary Films presentation of a Perry Films production. Produced by Dana Perry. Executive producers, Sheila Nevins, Nancy Abraham. Directed by Dana Perry.


Camera (color, HD), Hart Perry; editor, Geof Bartz; music, Michael Bacon; sound, Robert Teten, Troy Matthews. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 17, 2009. Running time: 92 MIN.
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