The first time I heard of Andrew Garfield was when I watched The Social Network in 2010. In fact, that’s when a lot of people first heard of him. Since then, Garfield hasn’t done a lot of movies, but I think that’s at least partially by choice. By the time I saw him in The Amazing Spider-Man, he was officially on my radar and I’ve seen every major release he’s been in since. Even with his short filmography, Garfield has been one of my top 3 favorite actors. On top of what he does onscreen, he is also a deep-thinking person who has interesting things to say. And he takes on roles that reflect this. That sort of thing attracts me to people like him. So I thought an actor with a short filmography and interesting ideals would be a good subject for my next series, similar to what I did with Christopher Nolan.
Garfield’s IMDb page has various television, short film, and music video roles. But I’m going to be focusing on his feature film roles, the first of which is Boy A. Spoilers ahead!
Boy A (2007)
Garfield was 24 when Boy A debuted and was even younger when it was in production. Just like anyone, the youth shows. But at the same time, there are glimpses of what makes him such a good actor today.
This is a movie where Garfield plays a young man from London named Jack who has just been released from prison. The audience doesn’t know what crime he committed until at least halfway through the movie. This creates sympathy for the character. Garfield portrays Jack in such a way that makes the audience think, “How could this guy have committed a crime that had him locked up in prison for years?”
When we first meet Jack, he’s with a supervisor who is there to help him with his transition back into everyday life. Throughout the whole sequence, we see the face of this young man who is full of hope and sees opportunity to have a better life than the one he was living previously.
One specific criticism I’ve heard in the past about Garfield is that he doesn’t have a lot of range – that he always plays a sort of gawky, wide-eyed, happy-to-be-here kind of kid. He sort of does play that kind of character in Boy A, but there is so much more layering to his performance.
There is definitely that awkward facet to his character, but as he tries to reintegrate himself into society, we see Jack struggle with who he was versus who he is now. Yes, that is a common theme in movies about redemption or a character who is trying to change, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to pull off. As the movie progresses, we learn more and more about what happened for Jack to be put in jail. We see just how much all of this affects how he is as a person, largely because of the performance from Garfield.
Perhaps the best aspect of Garfield’s performance is the way that he becomes more and more paranoid, panicked, and distant from the people around him as the film goes on. He’s in a really good position personally when it opens. No one knows who he is except for Terry, his supervisor. But eventually, people start to find out that he was involved in the murder of a young girl when he was a kid. And as this starts to happen, people disassociate with Jack and he loses the sense of security that he had slowly built up over time.
It all comes to a head at the end. Jack can’t take it anymore and we see him go to a London pier and stand on the edge over the water. The ending is left ambiguous, but we see the sum of all his conflict as he stands there with one tear falling down his face.
Andrew Garfield showed off serious acting chops in his first leading role. The writing for the film is excellent, but it is largely because of his performance that we feel so much sympathy for the character. This performance definitely would inform some of his future roles and set him on a good track to be the actor and person he is today.