Review – New Boy by Steph Green (Ireland)

Directed by Steph Green, New Boy is a 2007 short film from Ireland that received critical acclaim upon release, ultimately garnering an Academy Award nomination as well. The film chronicles the first day of school for a new boy from Africa as he settles into his life in the West after a traumatic tragedy back home.

The acting is fantastic all around as each of the child actors are perfectly casted and suited to their roles.

Joseph is an intelligent and happy kid, content with his life in his home country when violent conflict shatters his life and he is forced to shift to Ireland. With a completely different way of life here when contrasted with his homeland, Joseph’s first day at school becomes a trial as he struggles to make friends in an unfamiliar classroom.

The acting is fantastic all around as each of the child actors are perfectly casted and suited to their roles. The script manages to capture the tension between Joseph and the other kids really well. Joseph’s reluctance to settle into the new environment is captured earnestly by cinematographer P.J. Dillion who also contrasts the ice cold feel of Ireland with the warm colorful palette of Africa shown through flashbacks.

The exasperated teacher, played to perfection by Norma Sheahan, is a welcome addition as well as her zany energy keeps the classroom alive and kids on their feet. The back and forth dialogue between the teacher and her students really makes the story come alive as one cannot help but smile at the quips the children come up with from time to time.

Another thing that the film does well is that it nails the classroom banter perfectly. There’s the geeky girl Hazel who is fond of Joseph, a bully Christian out to make Joseph’s life hell and the quiet kid Seth who is also a bit of a troublemaker. Together, the children have varying reactions to Joseph but they gradually learn to band together against their teacher, transforming into friends in the process.

The parallel timelines that fluctuate between the present when Joseph finds himself in an Irish classroom and the past, where Joseph studied mathematics under his father really drive home how alone Joseph feels in his new homeland. The music elevates the nostalgia factor as well with Joseph fondly remembering the great times that he had with his father before his life fell apart.

Funny, moving and ultimately inspiring, New Boy illustrates both the power of friendship and the ability of kids to bond over common interests. With themes of bullying and racism running deep throughout the narrative, New Boy provides an honest look at the uncomfortable and unfamiliar territory that children find themselves in when forced to switch their entire way of lives. We have all found ourselves in Joseph’s shoes at some point in our lives and thus, we can all appreciate with fondness Joseph’s journey from the fringe to acceptance by his new peers. New Boy is thus a powerful short that will move audiences everywhere to tears.

Director Biography – Steph Green

Steph Green is an Oscar and Emmy nominated film and TV director, whose cinematic projects range from independent features to award-winning television. Green was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009 for her short film “New Boy” which she wrote and directed in Ireland.

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