It’s almost impossible to say anything about the plot of Wren Boys without spoiling the entire film. Directed by Harry Lighton from a script he co-wrote with John Fitzpatrick, this gritty ten-minute drama has been nominated for many well-deserved awards, including a BAFTA.
The movie begins as Conor (Lalor Roddy), an Irish priest, recalls his boyhood, where he and his friends would participate in a tradition that involved killing a wren bird the day after Christmas. This is based on an old Irish custom, though for obvious reasons the modern tradition doesn’t call for the killing of an actual bird. For dramatic purposes, though, this story works as a metaphorical foundation for everything that follows.
Because while the rest of the film does indeed take place on Boxing Day, it is no longer a literal telling of Wren Day. Instead, the priest accompanies his nephew Seamus (Diarmuid Noyes) on a trip to a nearby prison to visit someone special.
What follows is a heart-wrenching, touching, sad, and beautiful story that, just as you think you have a handle on it, changes in a way that dramatically subverts expectations.
The performances are top-notch and DP Nick Morris really helps set the emotional tone with his gritty, grainy images that contrast quite bluntly with the stark reality of cell phone images that we see later in the film.
As far as messages go, Wren Boys isn’t nearly as heavy handed and melodramatic as by all rights it should have been. What we have here is a slice-of-life study of a non-traditional Irish family that says everything that needs to be said without the need for a huge epiphany at the end. We’re out of the movie almost as soon as it begins, but this short film is as likely to stick with the viewer as much as a powerful feature. I can almost promise that you won’t leave this little movie the same as you came in.
Wren Boys is available to watch now for Amazon Prime subscribers.
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