Ireland in the early 60s. 12-year-old Francie Brady's father is a notorious drinker and his mother a nervous wreck. In an effort to escape the misery that surrounds him, he seeks refuge more and more in his own fantasy world. Aided by his vibrant imagination, his cowboy games with his best friend Joe with whom he also likes to get up to all sorts of mischief, he manages to somehow keep his head above water. On the surface of it, Francie likes to come the tough guy but, in reality, he can't bear to watch his family falling apart. One day, he decides to take himself off; on his return, however, he discovers that his mother has committed suicide. The long-standing feud between Francie and the family's intolerable neighbour, Mrs. Nugent, now gives way to open hostility as she begins to reproach Francie - as if he were somehow responsible for his mother's death.

Unable to listen to her constant stream of accusations, the boy rakes his revenge by breaking into her house several times - with the result that Francie is sent to an approved school. Francie makes no friends at the reformatory, however, on the contrary, his swaggering soon means that the other boys are against him and this increases his isolation. More and more Francie escapes into the world of his own imagination. When he comes home again he finds a job working at the local slaughterhouse where naturally, he is given all the dirtiest, bloodiest chores.

Whilst he was still in the reform school Francie dung steadfastly to his vision of renewing his friendship with his bosom pal Joe; however, Joe has changed quite a bit since he knew him and now spends his time playing with other children. Francie is surprised to see that even Philip Nugent, his hated neighbour's son, is now well-

Left alone, Francie's world collapses. His last bit of anchorage gone, what was once a lively imagination now begins to produce crazed delusions which push him closer and closer to the edge. In the end, Francie flips and steers towards the inevitable catastrophe.

Based on the award-winning novel by Patrick McCabe (who co-wrote the screenplay with director Neil Jordan), THE BUTCHER BOY is set in a small Irish town in the sixties, focusing on the fantasy world created by 12-year-old Francie Brady (Eamonn Owens) to offset the tedium and increasingly unstable reality of his actual life.
His father (Stephen Rea) is an alcoholic and his mother (Aisling O'Sullivan) is beginning to lose her tenuous grip on reality. As Francie's real life falls apart, his fantasy world takes over, and his reaction to events around him produce increasingly disturbing results, particularly when he decides to get his own back on his nosy neighbour, Mrs Nugent (Fiona Shaw).

Director's Biography

Born in Sligo, Ireland an 25 February 1950, Neil Jordan studied History and English at University College Dublin. He established himself as a successful writer winning the Guardian Fiction Prize for his first book NIGHT IN TUNISIA before becoming involved in film in 1980 with a documentary on the making of John Boorman 's EXCALIBUR. Since then he has written and directed ten films including MONA LISA, THE CRYING GAME, for which he won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and MICHAEL COLLINS which was awarded the Golden Lion at Venice and for which Liam Neeson won the Coppa Volpi, the award for Best Actor.
Neil Jordan continues to write fiction and has published four books to date.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Neil Jordan

Written by: Neil Jordan, Patrick McCabe

Produced by: Stephen Woolley, Redmond Morris

Cinematography: Adrian Biddle

Editing: Tony Lawson

Production Design: Anthony Pratt

Costume Design: Sandy Powell

Make-Up & Hair: Morgag Ross

Original Score: Elliot Goldenthal

Cast: Eamonn Owens (Francie Brady), Stephen Rea (Da Brady), Fiona Shaw (Mrs. Nugent), Alan Boyle (Joe Purcell), Aisling O'Sullivan (Ma Brady)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Cinematographer – Prix Carlo Di Palma 1998
  • European Film 1998
  • Feature Film Selection 1998