Teens often experience diverse challenges as they fight to find their place among their peers and in society, but it’s how they deal with those struggles that truly define their character. Contending with those struggles can put such intense pressure on some teens that they’re driven to take drastic measures to garner attention, even if it means risking their reputation and future. This troubling internal conflict to gain reassurance and attention from those around them is captivatingly chronicled in the new crime drama, ‘Jamesy Boy,’ which is set to open in New York theaters on Friday and is now available on VOD. Filmmaker Trevor White, who made his feature film writing and directorial debuts with the movie, realistically and emotionally captured the difficulties teens are faced with when they feel the only option left for them is to break the law, after society has given up on them.
‘Jamesy Boy’ follows James (Spencer Lofranco), a troubled youth struggling to turn his life around and stop getting into trouble with the law. But he’s deterred to fully become a law-abiding citizen after he’s continuously rejected entry back into high school. His mother, Tracy (Mary Louise-Parker), is struggling to keep their family together and continuously warns her son to finish his juvenile parole sentence without further incidents. However, James feels ostracized by the school officials, and society overall, over his rebellious reputation. After being tempted by a girl he just meets, Crystal (Rosa Salazar), James decides to work for her drug dealing boyfriend, Roc (Michael Trotter). While he quickly earns Rock’s respect, James begins to question whether he could lead a straight life, after meeting the innocent Sarah (Taissa Farmiga).
James’ further descent into criminal behavior is told through extended flashbacks. In the present day, which is four years after he first met Crystal and begins working for Roc, a now 18-year-old James is serving a prison sentence for multiple offenses. Despite wanting to improve himself, James is continuously drawn into fights with the other inmates, including the vicious Guillermo (Taboo). The two constantly fight, particularly over the arrival of a new prisoner, Chris (Ben Rosenfield), a first-time offender who was convicted over a relatively minor offense. Through his new friendship with Chris, as well as his intimidating neighbor, Conrad (Ving Rhames), James decides to finally change his ways and work with the warden, Lt. Falton (James Woods), to help stop the violence in his wing. James begins to realize the error of his ways, and will do whatever it takes to save his future.
Lofranco enthrallingly played the troubled title character, who’s continuously struggling with his desire to build a better life, particularly for his mother and Sara, with his inability to resist his drive to prove his toughness and defend himself against those who question his choices. The actor embodied all teens’ longing to make a name for themselves and earn the respect of their peers, even when it can end up ruining their chances of success and future. While James does occasionally feel it’s easier to continue to rebel against authority, whether he’s dealing drugs for Roc or fighting his fellow inmates, Lofranco emotionally transforms and matures his troubled but determined anti-hero throughout the film, as he does come to realize the error of his ways.
As a first-time feature film writer and director, White not only smartly cast Lofranco in his first leading role, but also surrounded the talented actor with a captivating supporting cast that encouraged James’ from not completely descending into a harrowing life. Louise-Parker effortlessly captured a struggling mother’s pursuit to provide for her family the best way she can, as well as try to help her son overcome his illegal tendencies. Farmiga and Salazar also emotionally and cunningly played on James’ ever-changing emotions and questioning of where he should take his life; Sarah serves as his beacon of hope, and proves he could be happy leading a straight life, while Crystal tempts him with the continuous money and power of staying on the street. Rhames’ portrayal of Conrad is perhaps the biggest influence on James, as he subtly but powerfully shows him that he has the potential to successfully survive and be happy outside of prison.
‘Jamesy Boy’ is an influential, gripping crime drama that proves the environment and emotional support impressionable teens are exposed to and receive can strongly guide them in what life path to take. White created a powerful message in his first feature film, and created a story that shows when troubled youth finally realize they do have the power to improve their lives, they can dramatically save themselves a life’s worth of pain, disappointment and danger. Lofranco, along with the film’s support cast, powerfully portray the hurdles their characters are forced to overcome in their economically depressed area, as well as society’s perceptions of who they really are, based on their past mistakes. The talented cast is the true driving force in White’s emotionally gripping portrayal of all-too-unfortunate societal circumstances, which prove that people can truly change themselves and their futures if they put their minds to it.