Kiefer Sutherland’s film debut is a slow-moving affair, a personal work and a largely forgettable ninety minutes. In the lead role, Sutherland plays a teenage boy growing up in a Novia Scotia town in the 1930’s. He’s got a lot on his mind, this kid. Should he become a Priest? Should he nail the girl around the corner? Is his brother permanently mentally screwed up? And then there’s what happened to him when he went on that little church trip a while back…Kiefer’s dilemma grows stronger when the father of the girl he’s got his eye on, a local cop, guns down two people in cold blood – with Kiefer watching? Should he betray his love interest and report what he’s heard? Should he forget about it and save his own skin? Well, really it’s not that great a dilemma – I’d be over to the cop shop like a shot telling them what I saw, but perhaps Kiefer’s a bit more of a pussy than I am.
The cop, played by Alan Scarfe, is less scary and more a violent loudmouth in need of a serious ass kicking. Kiefer’s parents in the film however, Peter Donat and Liv Ullman, bring everything back to reality with great performances in underwritten roles. In fact, their performances contrast starkly with those of Scarfe and Sutherland, who seem at opposite ends of the emotional scale. Kiefer could not look any weaker than he does here, playing things to a mousey extreme (either by choice or because he wasn’t yet talented), while Scarfe blusters about like a bull with a sore head.
Shot in a place called Grace Bay, the hometown of director Daniel Petrie, this is clearly a labor of love for those concerned, but for most viewers it’s going to be tough to relate to the era, the place and the people involved. As a low budget early 80’s work, there’s certainly much here to like, especially considering the crap churned out in the name of cinema at the time, but if a film is to be judged on how it engages an audience here and now, it’s tough to recommend The Bay Boy for any reason beyond filling a few hours on a rainy Sunday.Or unless you’re interested in seeing how big a doofus Kiefer looked when he was 16.