Detainment Film Review

By Will Barber Taylor

Two ten-year-old boys are detained by police under suspicion of abducting and murdering a toddler. This is a true story based on interview transcripts and records from the James Bulger case which shocked the world in 1993.

The brutal murder of James Bulger was one of the most shocking in British History. The vicious nature of the crime, the age of both the victim and the killers and the fact it happened in a deprived area of Liverpool all ensured that this horrific crime would be forever remembered. Detainment focuses on the aftermath of Bulger’s murder and the interviews conducted by the police with the two killers, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.

By focusing on one particular element of the tragedy, writer and director Vincent Lambe manages to encapsulate the true horror of events without making the film sensationalist or overtly reactionary. Lambe’s directing is intimate and intense and his ability to create drama in the confined interview space is exceedingly well done. Utilising the actual recordings of the interviews with Venables and Thompson, Lambe creates a film that is both documentary and drama and delicately walks the line between the two, never sliding to one side or the other.

The acting is exceptionally good with both child leads, Ely Solan and Leon Hughes giving excellent performances. Both young stars are certain to have a bright career ahead of them as they manage to be utterly believable in the roles of Venables and Thompson. The film would not be as impactful as it is without their acting ability.

Detainment is the stand out short film of 2019 so far – not a mean feat considering the amount of excellent short films that are being shown at cinemas and festivals. It has a raw intensity and frightening honesty to it that will ensure that it stays with its viewer long after they have watched it. It is an incredible, heart breaking experience which deserves as many accolades as possible.


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