There are two sides to every story and this production does not present them. LITTLE BOY BLUE is a British miniseries from late last year that focuses on the death of Rhys Jones, a suburban boy whose brutal murder rocked a nation.
Writer Jeff Pope relies mainly on the Jones’ version of events, in addition to information from media reports as well as transcripts from the trial. Initially we see Rhys and his family before the murder living a simple daily life. Then after he is killed, their world turns upside down and the lead investigator is introduced. This leads to our seeing the perpetrators, a gang of older boys who were in the middle of a drug transaction when Rhys accidentally got in the way. These subplots use the facts of the case, but they are clearly devised to make the viewer feel sorry for Rhys’ family. I guess that’s understandable given the situation, but Pope might have done better to provide us with an unvarnished look at society, and why this crime happened in the first place.
I would have preferred to see the story a bit more from the point of view of the boys that where charged, as well as their families. All the lower class characters in this tale are presented as untrustworthy and unreliable, out to cover things up. There is no sympathetic rendering of the struggles they face; not even the mothers are presented in any kind of sympathetic light. One of the mothers ultimately does the right thing and tells the truth in court, but a lawyer quickly tries to discredit her statements as false because she’s supposedly a known liar.
As for the detective assigned to the case, we are told at the end he became friends with the victim’s family. So obviously all the scenes in which he appears are going to be slanted to make him look heroic. During the investigation he often clashed with a female superior, so she is depicted as someone who interfered with the investigation. Basically she is cast as the villain, because she didn’t do more to help the Jones family get justice against the perpetrators more quickly.
Because this is a miniseries, it was designed to air in four separate installments. The production itself is too long. Four full hours is way too much to devote to this story. Each of the four one-hour installments I watched had at least 15 minutes that could have been cut. Meaning this could have been told in a much more compact three hours if the narrative had been tightened.
In the first segment we get shots of the mother doting on her son. She is shown ironing and putting clothes into his dresser drawers. We also see her and her husband discuss what color to paint a living room wall. As well as lingering shots of soccer balls in the backyard. In the second segment the police review video footage of the killing with nothing new being figured out. A montage or lap dissolve compressing these non-events would have been sufficient. The third segment features the police on their computers– at one point the director and editor cut to a keyboard as a police officer debates typing something. Why? There’s no reason for all the wasted screen time. Then we have the courtroom scenes in the fourth segment where the action seems to pause so we can see the mother praying for justice.
The filmmakers do not seem to know how to tell the story more expediently. It’s like their primary goal is to just fill up screen time. There are also a lot of long tracking shots outdoors, meant to convey realism. Some of these work rather well. Especially in the first part where the victim is killed.
After a while the long outdoor shots become an artistic nuisance. In some cases you can tell the actors have to wait to deliver their dialogue because they’re placed ahead of the camera crew waiting for the microphones to catch up to them so their dialogue can be audibly recorded. As a result we get a stilted and belabored presentation of a story that is entertaining only in how transparent its biases are and how transparently artistic the people behind the camera are trying to put this over on the viewers. Rhys Jones deserved better.
LITTLE BOY BLUE can be streamed on BritBox.