9 January 2019 | film-review
Review by David James Smith (author, 'The Sleep of Reason: The James Bulger Case)
I thought Detainment was a remarkable achievement, a compelling and disturbing evocation of those events, which I know all too well and remain deeply troubling even after 25 years.
The film was authentic and brilliantly cast especially the two boys who perpetrated the killing of James Bulger. While I could imagine some would recoil from the idea of dramatising such a terrible crime, I thought the film was both unflinching and also sensitive to the ongoing trauma.
If audiences are willing, they will find in the film the truth of the two boys and their inescapable smallness - they were just ten, after all - which only serves to make the incident as unfathomable now as it was in 1993.
As Detainment I think seeks to explore, even though the killing is painfully difficult to comprehend we have a responsibility, not only to the victim and the perpetrators but also to ourselves, to try and make sense of what happened. In that way the film avoids prurience and shows us two boys of primary school age who are not the evil monsters of popular imagination but only human after all.
I hope the film finds the wider audience it very much deserves.
David James Smith (author, 'The Sleep of Reason: The James Bulger Case')