Review by Hunter Miele
A raw, unconventional experience is always a blessing in film. Something that mimics reality in a way that is not only captivating, but leads one to view the world in a new light. “Boy From Nowhere” is SJ Finlay’s directorial debut and is based on true events while featuring a cast of non-actors. The film explores the harsh world of Filipino gangs, with a specific focus on the use of child soldiers. For those of us that are fortunate enough to be far separated from that environment, “Boy From Nowhere” offers a very valuable glimpse into real-world struggles that have a significant global impact.
Gary is a young Filipino boy living in a coastal village in a family of fishermen. The film opens with Gary playing a game of basketball with slightly older boys from a neighboring village. They mock him for being an outsider and we get the sense that Gary is used to feeling isolated and alone. He later joins his father on a fishing trip, and his father tells him about his estranged mother, who is of a far-away tribe. That evening, Gary’s village is brutally attacked and burned to the ground, and his father perishes in the blaze. Moments before his father’s violent demise, he hands Gary a photo of his mother- his only tangible connection to her. Now orphaned, Gary sets off on a quest to find his mother’s village and tribe, with nothing but the photo and the limited information from his father to guide him.
Gary initiates his journey and meets a gangster called Nack Nack. It’s evident that Gary’s age leads Nack Nack to believe that he can be easily manipulated into joining the gang, so Nack Nack is quick to assume a brotherly role in Gary’s life. When Nack Nack gets himself into trouble, he needs to come up with a plan to protect himself. He decides to join up with a local rebel faction in order to stay safe, hidden and fed. Since Nack Nack is Gary’s only companion, Gary feels compelled to join him, although he knows nothing of the rebel group’s cause and activity.
Once Gary and Nack Nack join the rebels, we learn the details of what they’re fighting for and why. It’s easy to abhor their violent ways, but we can’t help but feel sympathetic. The film doesn’t paint the group out as strictly evil, and this is necessary to understand the very real struggles that exist in the southern Philippine Islands. Gary and Nack Nack’s brutal journey unfolds with a satisfying and unique conclusion that will leave viewers not only entertained, but with a more thorough understanding of the type of society that most of us couldn’t fathom being a part of.
“Boy From Nowhere” delivers that long sought out but rarely discovered dose of harsh reality that brings depth to a cinematic experience. Each actor has a true connection to the film’s plot, and their portrayal is raw and honest. Moments throughout the film can feel slow, with multiple scenes that seem drawn out and mildly out of place, but the fascinating overall theme and impressive style compensates for this. With a distinctive cast and story and a beautiful score, “Boy From Nowhere” marks an impressive debut from SJ Finlay.
Available on Amazon Friday, February 17th.
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