British helmer David Evans (“Fever Pitch”) provides a wrenching and unrelenting look at how a working-class husband and wife deal with the accidental death of their only son in “Our Boy.” An affecting, extremely convincing drama about the weight of sudden tragedy in one couple’s lives, pic imposes an authentically nightmarish pressure on protagonists and viewer alike, only to arrive at a catharsis that makes the draining emotional journey as rewarding as it is punishing. This smaller and grittier variation on themes raised in “The Sweet Hereafter” deserves the attention of serious fest and tube programmers.
In a dreadful confluence of events, the police find stolen merchandise hidden in the east London house of Woody (Ray Winstone) and Sonia (Pauline Quirke) the same night their 8-year-old son, Lee, fails to return home from school. While Woody is under interrogation at the station the authorities confirm that Lee is dead, the victim of a hit-and-run driver. A robust construction worker who doted on his only child, Woody finds the foundations of his world crumbling.
The solidarity of neighbors, family and friends is not enough to get Woody over the hurdle. The bereaved parents have different methods of coping, with Woody increasingly adrift and adamant about wallowing in his pain. Story unfolds as a two-pronged mystery: Will the perpetrator be tracked down, and will Woody and Sonia, who truly love each other, be able to surmount their grief?
Tony Grounds’ well-crafted screenplay is awash in telling details that give the proceedings cumulative visceral power. The police have a suspect with prior drunken driving offenses but the story takes a surprise twist when a witness offers info as to the likely culprit.
Best known for her comic persona on the British sitcom “Birds of a Feather,” Quirke is rock solid as a grieving mom and spouse determined to see her marriage recover from every parent’s worst fear. With his intense perf as Woody, Winstone (the wife-beater in Gary Oldman’s “Nil by Mouth”) cements his ability to embody men whose actions are always believable if not always pretty.
Supporting characters, including a fastidious and intolerant police detective , Spence (Neil Dudgeon), and Woody’s best friend, Phil (Perry Fenwick), keep matters interesting and suspenseful.
Aided by intelligent camerawork and the flat lighting of reality, the particulars of petty crime, pivotal transgression and personal loyalty in London’s working-class East End ring absolutely true. Snippets of music are perhaps a touch too insistent and abrupt in an otherwise exemplary melding of subject and tone.