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Wren Boys short film review - beautifully shot and totally unexpected


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“Tradition can be very cruel.” The opening line of Harry Lighton’s Oscar-nominated short film Wren Boys, spoken over a black screen, establishes not only the film’s tone but also the poignant themes that run throughout it.

Image credit: Wren Boys

This story of a catholic priest driving his nephew to prison seems like a simple enough premise but, in fact, proves to be incredibly unexpected.

Speaking in front of his congregation, a catholic priest recalls his own childhood memories of the brutal Irish tradition of wren hunting, in which, the day after Christmas, boys would be sent out to murder the bird. This anecdote acts as a smooth transition into the film’s main narrative, giving viewers something to think about before the clear connections unfold.

At every plot point, this 11-minute short film defies expectations. It establishes its scenes and characters to position viewers to adopt judgemental misconceptions before diverting down a completely different path. It is due to this that intrigue never falters. Viewers are kept engaged because, although by no means out of the ordinary, the story is certainly unpredictable.

Investment with the film’s central characters is not lacking either. In its short duration the characters remain anonymous enough to not warrant any backstory but, at the same time, are personable enough to care for. From scene to scene each character represents a variety of contrasting themes that both shock and enlighten – from brutality to tenderness, love to aggression.

Wren Boys ultimately acts as a criticism of past beliefs and a self-reflective insight into how Ireland’s attitudes towards significant social issues have developed. Beautifully shot and totally unexpected, the film challenges viewers to adopt a different point of view – the conclusions we jump to are often based on misconceptions.

Wren Boys is available on Amazon Prime. Watch it here

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