Movies: The Kid * * *
(16, Limited Release)
Some stories are so bizarre they have to be true, and that's certainly the case with The Kid. Based on a memoir by Kevin Lewis, Nick Moran's film is, I suppose, an uplifting story -- but only ultimately, because Lewis endured a 70s childhood of almost unimaginable cruelty.
Kevin (played by William Finn Miller as a child, and by Rupert Friend thereafter) is the second son of an alcoholic father and a vindictive, sociopathic mother called Gloria (Natascha McElhone) who beats the boy relentlessly.
Occasionally, social services intervene, and at one point Kevin finds respite in a home for troubled boys. But when Gloria gets him back, she beats him all the harder, and Kevin grows into a diffident and withdrawn young man. When Gloria goes too far and puts the boy in hospital, he's finally taken away from her forever, and comes into the care of a kindly elderly couple.
Alan (James Fox) preaches self-worth and teaches Kevin how to box, a sport at which his pent up rage helps him to excel. He grows ambitious and, as he watches Maggie Thatcher's stock market boom unfold, he decides he wants a piece of the action.
But after Alan dies, Kevin falls under the influence of a shady nightclub owner called Terry, who pretends to support Kevin's attempt to open his own bar but really wants to exploit him as a bare knuckle fighter. A happy ending for Kevin seems impossible, until he meets a young woman who believes in him and discovers a hidden talent.
The Kid has a gripping story to tell and does so with some efficiency but little style. In fact, the film flags somewhat in the middle.
But it's a very watchable drama, and Friend shows considerable range in his portrayal of the film's diffident but determined hero.