Set in 1971, Kris is sentenced to two years in a rural Borstal and the film follows the day to day life of the boys of Borstal and their preparation for life on the outside.
The movie revolves around Kris (Matthew Winters), a young lad who has been sentenced to serve his time at the school, a budding musician who wants nothing more than to get his head down and get back to the real world as soon as possible. Whilst attending the prison Kris makes his fair share of friends and his positive and ‘work-hard’ attitude earn him the admiration of the Borstal staff members but at the same time he makes himself a few enemies along the way.
I found Borstal to be an interesting watch. The film itself doesn’t really have an in-depth story as such but it’s rather a glossy overview of what life in Borstal is like. The troubles of other attendees, the working shifts and the bonds with other fellow offenders are all major focus points. Take out the violence here and there and this film paints Borstal in quite the opposite light of which it’s meant to be intended and instead focuses on the characters rather than the establishment.
As a whole this film doesn’t focus on the violence that is common in these types of films. Borstal is more of a character piece about Kris’s behaviour, his ambitions, his influence on the other offenders and more of a character evolution piece more than anything else.
Kris ends up working on the dairy farm and on his walk back to the school frequently meets a girl called Sally (Tiffany-Ellen Robinson) who just so happens to be the wife of the school’s governor played by Jon-Paul Gates. This side-story is interesting to watch develop and the governor’s slight change in accent in every scene is an unintended comedic slant that I can let slide.
Aside from a few over-exposed shots throughout the film it actually could pass as a nice little TV movie. What it lacks in violence it makes up for in heart and what it lacks in story it makes up for with an incredibly engaging lead character that shines brighter than any of the over-exposed shots I just mentioned. Matthew Winters stands head and shoulders above the rest in this flick and I can see him having a great future ahead of him as he carried this lead role with ease and conviction.
Borstal is a strange film to rate. I was expecting violence after violence, mouthy youths and carnage but this never arrived in large doses. Whilst those bits and pieces are scattered throughout, this version of Borstal is definitely more a coming of age film and it’s the first Greenway Entertainment flick that really focuses on its characters and for that, I applaud them.
Charming, fluent and hearty. Borstal is something a little different than your average prison movie and I feel the DVD cover doesn’t reflect what the film is actually about. Hard hitting? Gritty? Pulls no punches? Not one bit. Quite the opposite, but in a good way.