On Friday 6th March I had the pleasure of being invited to attend the screening of It's Just a Boy, the first short film from Nottingham-based Leap of Faith Films. It's also the first film from writer/director Jane Louise Webb.
There's always something special about attending a screening with the people who made the film. I hid at the back, in a great position to soak up the atmosphere. There's a thrill of energy that runs around the room, seats filled with cast members and crew members and family members (and at least one random roving reviewer). Children run up the aisles as people catch up and reminisce about the shoot, all waiting for the announcement that showtime is upon us.
As this is Webb's first film, it's easy to imagine the nerves that come with seeing your work on the big screen for the first time. It's Just a Boy started its journey with a teaser trailer and crowdfunding campaign in 2018, and now it's screening in a cinema and doing the festival rounds. She needn't have worried though as it's turned out to be a very strong debut indeed!
13 year old Amy (Angel-May Webb) has a secret admirer, a boy she messages but has never met. He desperately wants to meet up so she tries to give her mother Penny (Sarah Eastwood) the runaround. Penny's not easily fooled, though, as she intercepts the messages and confronts her naive daughter. Amy can't see what the fuss is all about - after all, it's just a boy. Isn't it?
The film gets a little uncomfortable to watch at times, seeing poor Amy excited at the prospect of a boy liking her and embarrassed by what she sees as her mum's overprotective behaviour. The story might seem predictable, but if so then it's only because it needs to be to deliver its warning message. As the story cruises to its inevitable end, Amy's refrain of 'it's just a boy' hammers home how sinister the situation is. She's being catfished, gaslight and groomed and she's too young to appreciate the danger she's in. Even her dad doesn't seem overly bothered until it's clear that things aren't on the level.
It's Just A Boy is an excellent film, well-shot with great performances from the two leads and an important message. A statement at the end provides some worrying statistics about the number of kids on social media and the percentage of them that have been contacted by suspicious accounts. It can be hard to protect vulnerable children and teenagers in the digital age, and parents will always worry for their safety. The hope is for the film to be shown in schools to raise awareness of the issue and to help protect as many kids as possible.
The credits roll, the lights come up to a well-earned round of applause and cheers, then it's off to the bar for celebratory drinks as everyone congratulates each other on a job well done.
Jane Louise Webb has delivered a powerful first film, and something tells me this is far from the last we'll see of her and Leap of Faith films!