the-butcher-boy-jan-14thArguably Jordan’s best film, The Butcher Boy is based on the novel by Patrick McCabe, who co-wrote the screenpiay. The story is centred on Francie (Eamonn Evans), a rambunctious youth, who with his best friend Joe (Alan Boyle) gets up to mischief as a relief from their troubled famiiy lives. With supporting roles from Stephen Rea and Aisling O’Sullivan as Francie’s father and mother, Jordan employs an expressionist and surreal style to portray Francie’s psychological state and events unfold to a chilling conclusion. “In finding a visual equivalent for the book‘s flights of fancy, Jordan creates a riveting mixture of daydream and reality …” Janet Maslin, New York Times. (Cert 15)
Dir: Neil Jordan 110 mins Ireland 1997

Programme Notes

The Butcher Boy
Ireland 1997 110mins Cert 15

In a stunning collaboration of style and content from director Neil Jordan and novelist Patrick McCabe, the trials and tribulations of the troubled adolescent Francie are told. Set in small-town Southern Ireland in the 1960s, the rural idyll is exploded with dramatic effect. Francie Brady (Eamonn Owens) escapes the instability of his home life with his best friend Joe (Alan Boyle) whose mischief and vivid imagination brings them into conflict with the law abiding citizens of the community.

Jordan skilfully blends the darkest of Irish humour with pathos and, ultimately, violence exposing the social and cultural mores of 1960s Ireland. Paranoia arising from of the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis and mistrust of the Catholic Church (as abuse was still then swept under the carpet), together with ambivalence towards the British presence in Ireland is here epitomised by Mrs Nugent (Fiona Shaw) as Francie’s nemesis. A paedophile priest, Fr. Sullivan (Milo O’Shea) and a manifestation of the Virgin Mary (Sinead O’Connor) contribute towards and are symptoms of Francie’s descent into mental illness. His drunken father Da Brady (Stephen Rea, a Neil Jordan regular), together with his mentally frail wife (Aisling O’Sullivan), further compound Francie’s demise.

“In print, The Butcher Boy was compared to Catcher in the Rye and Huckleberry Finn, which in one sense is apt. It’s a picaresque journey of a rebellious, pre-adolescent boy who, as Huck Finn said, can’t stand to be ‘sivilized’. Jordan just takes it to another, more frightening, degree” Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle

Francie Brady – Eamonn Owens
Da Brady – Stephen Rea
Ma Brady – Aisling O’Sullivan
Mrs Nugent – Fiona Shaw
Joe Purcell – Alan Doyle

Director – Neil Jordan
Producers – Redmond Morris, Stephen Woolley
Screenplay – Neil Jordan, Patrick McCabe
Cinematography – Adrian Biddle
Music – Elliot Goldenthal



“Sounded like a good poem but the superficial landscape made it unappealing.”

“Was the DVD transfer in the right aspect ratio? Why the high contrast B/W? What was the point?”

“Too short for a short”

“I was waiting for the short only to find it had finished!”

“I can hold my breath for longer than this!”


“Brilliant! Very disturbing – and meant to be so. Grim scenes from an Irish One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

“An outstanding tour de force with an incredible central performance. Even with its bleak themes, its stylistic approach – cf. White Heat meets A Clockwork Orange – made it a dazzling display of drama.”

“A most courageous film”

“The boy (Eamonn Owens) was excellent.”


“Very weird film. Only understood 10 – 20% of it.”

“I found it hard to connect with this film – it didn’t work for me.”


“I suppose this was about a crazy, mixed-up kid amid endless violence and stereotypical Irish (family). It would have been more understandable with subtitles.”

“Needed subtitles!”

“Could have done with subtitles.”

“Subtitles would have been useful but I doubt if I would have understood the film even then.”

“I might have enjoyed it more if I had been able to follow the dialogue.”

“Can we have it again with subtitles, please? Might have been a decent film, although it seemed to get a bit silly at the end.”

“Apart from the narrator, all the rest (of the characters) should have been subtitled. The youngsters could have been speaking Gaelic for all I cared!”

“The music was good.”


A:8, B:5, C:11, D:5, E:4 to give 56%