In 1993, in one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century took place when two ten-year-old boys stole a toddler from a shopping centre and proceeded to torture and murder him and leave him dead on a railway track. Still, 25 years later, Jamie Bulger’s murder is ingrained into the British psyche as one of the most hideous acts of violence ever committed, making the two convicted boys Britain’s youngest murderers.
Vincent Lambe’s 2018 short film ‘Detainment’ is based on the transcripts from interviews in which the two boys were first questioned, as the detectives struggle to get a straightforward confession. This is a powerful and painful study of right and wrong, truth and lies, and a child’s power to know the difference. Ely Solan plays Jon Venables, the child suspect who is seemingly torn apart by the guilt he feels. Solan is intense, powerful and convincing in the role as he wails into his mother’s arms. Robert Monahan (Leon Hughes) on the other hand appears to have little remorse and coldly passes most of the blame onto his friend and refuses to accept responsibility.
This is by no means an easy film to watch, but the talented actors make the experience worthwhile and poignant. The parents’ anguish at hearing the horrors that their sons have committed is agonising and unimaginable; there is a harrowing moment in which Jon’s father (Killian Sheridan is unable to look at his son for the shock of hearing what he has done.
This isn’t for the faint hearted, and 25 years later the details of this crime is no less difficult to confront, but this study of morality and the ability to understand our actions is also very poignant. The public’s perception of these boys is that they are monsters, inherently evil, whereas this film explores the perhaps more terrifying possibility that they were simply 10-year-old boys who did something appalling without a clear motive. It depicts them as humans who are unable to grasp the magnitude of what they have done, and that is something that is difficult to digest.
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