A Boy Called Dad

Robbie's dad Joe walked out on his family when his son was four. When he is just 14, Robbie has a quick fumble with a girl at a bus stop and she ends up pregnant with his child. Abandoned by his own father and with no male role model of his own, Robbie rejects the baby. Then his father, Joe, turns up out of the blue. A decade of silence is not going to be easily healed and Joe doesn't quite know how to build bridges with his son. Robbie - played with conviction and assurance by newcomer Kyle Ward - is angry. He feels let down by life and looks set to become a troubled drifter.

Then something shifts inside Robbie and, sensing his son is in danger, Robbie snatches him and goes on the run. He has little idea how to look after the baby, trying to feed him straight out of a carton of milk rather than a bottle, retching when he changes nappies and despairing at the constant crying. Yet slowly and surely, he learns how to be a dad. Meanwhile, Joe (an excellent Ian Hart) is helping the police and the community in their frantic search for Robbie.

The dialogue at the start of A Boy Called Dad is gentle, funny and moving. You would need a heart of stone not to feel empathy for the confused, lonely Robbie. This low-budget film was written by Julie Rutterford and directed by Brian Percival - both Bafta winners for their 2001 short film About a Girl - in an attempt to tackle modern issues around masculinity and fatherhood head on.
Percival has said that he wanted his debut feature to avoid the gritty realism so often associated with British films, which is a tough ask considering the subject matter.

Ian Hart - a hugely prolific and respected actor who has offered the most convincing take on John Lennon to date in 1994's Backbeat but who also appeared as Professor Quirinus Quirrell in the first Harry Potter film - has talked about the challenges of sticking to a fixed script with a young actor. "When you're working with a kid, there's an element of unpredictability and you've got to be on your toes to accommodate that. It might mean throwing an extra line in, just to get us back on track, to move it where it needs to be. But there's no harm."

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