Review by Sean Boelman
October is upon us and that means a slew of spooky and macabre movies. Often, there’s at least one great indie movie that threatens to go under-the-radar, and this year, that’s Martin Owen’s The Loneliest Boy in the World, a delightfully dark comedy that rises above its premise.
The film follows a teenager who, following the death of his mother, struggles to fit in, only to find friendship in unexpected places: with reanimated corpses he dug up from the graveyard. It’s a fun little zombie comedy, and thankfully it doesn’t waste time on the logistics of things, allowing it to be enjoyable in a macabre way.
The biggest shortcoming of the film is its uneven pacing. The first thirty minutes or so really drag, and then the final third feels extremely rushed. It’s almost as if the film was constrained by a ninety minute runtime or simply ran out of money while shooting the final act, so they had to wrap prematurely.
Director Martin Owen does a very good job of infusing the film with a very retro vibe without ever feeling overly cloying. It feels like an old school monster movie, the likes of which you would see at a drive-in, and it has the production design and cinematography to go along with it. It’s a perfect flick for the spooky season.
Admittedly, the character development is a bit thin. The protagonist is compelling, but he’s an orphan looking for a family structure, which is one of the most common arcs in the book. His love interest is a pretty straightforward manic pixie dream girl. And all of his “friends” that come back from the dead are flat archetypes.
The film also struggles to make much of its themes. There is obviously something to be said here about the isolationism caused by bullying, but it feels like an afterthought. Piers Ashworth seems much more interested in telling a crowd-pleasing story that lightly tugs at the heartstrings than deeply engaging with any of the material he wrote.
That said, the casting is strong and elevates the ensemble into being something memorable. Max Harwood (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) is quirky and oddly charming in his lead role. The supporting cast also features some strong turns from Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Susan Wokoma, and Ben Miller.
The Loneliest Boy in the World is just weird enough to work yet still plenty accessible. It’s much more charming than it has any right to be, and while it may feel a bit rushed, it’s still an enjoyable watch for its ninety-minute runtime.
The Loneliest Boy in the World hits theaters and VOD on October 14.