Idiot Boy is a 2023 shot-on-video faux documentary written and directed by Luke De Brún, with additional writing from Dan Doyle. Beginning filming in September 2018, the film was created over a four to five-year period in South Dublin. Primarily known as director of music videos for the likes of Madison Front and Chinese Newspaper, Luke is also known for directing the short films Sleep (2021) and Joyce’s City (2023).

Set in Ballymoss, Ireland, an impoverished town forgotten by time and rife with social issues, the film follows a group of eclectic townsfolk dealing with the aftermath of the disappearance of Hope, a young girl who had last been seen several years previous whilst walking home from school and the effects it has had upon its residence.


Idiot Boy (2023) Hope

Framed as a low-budget documentary filmed over several months, Idiot Boy undoubtedly encapsulates the very essence of realism throughout its runtime. The fictional town feels claustrophobic in its entrapment, entirely reminiscent of real poverty-stricken areas throughout Ireland and the UK. The general ambient disdain permeating through the town and its residence is certainly palpable within the first few minutes, impeccably relaying the film’s intended tone effectively.

Whilst beginning with a true-crime style overview of the disappearance in question, the film soon turns its focus towards a handful of townsfolk and their daily lives—swapping between several vignettes of our cast finding tiny glimpses of joy in their otherwise downtrodden lives, as well as discuss their personal feelings toward the ongoing case. Delivering an approach similar to that of Japanese director Shinji Sômai, with his directorial philosophy of “humanity observing humanity”, Idiot Boy unequivocally achieves this aspect naturally and effortlessly. The characters, whilst pertaining to their unique quirks, all follow a recognisable archetype that is sure to be reminiscent of at least one person from your day-to-day life.


Idiot Boy (2023) Dan "The Radio"

The small cast of characters, made up of young filmmaker Dean (Dean Houlihan), Smokey (Jack Murray), Adrian (Thomas Quill), Hermit (Eamonn Elliot), and Dan “The Radio” (Dan Doyle); all deliver a credibly authentic representation of those at the mercy of a poverty-stricken environment. Being one of the main driving forces of the film, each player successfully conveys an incredibly slow-burning pace that is still enticingly captivating—their humdrum lives, whilst sad and depressing, are certainly fascinating in their relatability.

Featuring a purposefully visual style, the use of VHS and Hi8 tapes with a handheld video camera to create the film delivers a nostalgic feel that can only be obtained through such a medium. The high saturation, colour bleeding, 4:3 aspect ratio, and tape distortion provide a perceptibly aged product that feels suitably at home around the late 1990s/early 2000s timeframe (24 years ago *dies inside*). Despite this amateurish look, Idiot Boy Bestows a knowledgeable level of cinematography, with a multitude of establishing shots and static angles, and certainly aids in improving the production value as a whole.


Idiot Boy (2023) Dean

Furthermore, as the crew remains a hidden, anonymous character throughout, the documentary style gives the illusion of the breaking of the fourth wall. With each character having a one-sided conversation with the audience, the exchange between each character and the viewer further compounds the film’s overwhelming validity.

Conversely, this introspection of behaviorism is juxtaposed with occasionally inter-spliced cuts of disturbing footage of questionable nature—seemingly giving a spine-chilling glimpse into Hope’s possible demise. However, the purposeful ambiguity of these scenes leaves their ultimate meaning open to interpretation and never fully reveals their exact creation. Could these scenes be from the found footage of her murder? Or are these shots from a local filmmaker’s project that was inconvenienced by Hope’s unfortunate disappearance? This is left open to the audience’s own interpretation, never confirming her fate in the end.


Idiot Boy (2023)

Creating the majority of the film’s atmosphere, Idiot Boy’s featured score provides a phenomenal chaperone for the film’s dark undertone. Consisting of a mix of classical music, eerie synths, and low mechanical drones undoubtedly set a scene’s intended tone perfectly—particularly in the interspliced found footage. Furthermore, with a few examples of late 90s/early 2000s pop, this unequivocally aids in the film’s placement in time. Despite this, some of the film’s best sound design comes from the incredibly effective use of quietude. With some scenes relay a deafening silence over its visuals, considerably exacerbating the awkwardness of the scenario playing out.

An impeccably built character study of crimes lingering effect on a community, Idiot Boy is a hauntingly pragmatic glimpse into a society accustomely numb to being abandoned by the rest of the world. Whilst not an outright horror, the film has a graspable, dark atmosphere that is genuinely creepy at times. Yet with the slight inclusion of black humour and a handful of laugh-out-loud moments, the film unquestionably sits in the middle of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Harmony Korine’s Gummo. Though its visual design and unhurried pace may be off-putting to some, those with an interest in the two examples above or experimental cinema in general, are sure to get the most out of this uniquely compelling piece of film.

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