Boy From Nowhere (2023) Review – a thoughtful and harrowing experience

By Marc Miller
Published: February 18, 2023 (Last updated: January 24, 2024)


S.J. Finlay’s Boy From Nowhere is a thoughtful and harrowing experience that should not be missed.

Directed by S. J. Finlay, we review the 2023 Prime Video film Boy From Nowhere, which does not contain spoilers.

Boy From Nowhere, the London International Film Festival Audience Award and Docs Without Borders Exceptional Merit Award winner, is a character study based on true events. The story is harrowing but also a reflective film that finds a character who journeys into the heart of a rebel uprising in the Philipines. At a brisk 75 minutes, S. J. Finlay‘s film drops you in the middle of an existential crisis, not just for a young boy but a country going through its transition.

Boy From Nowhere Review and Plot Summary

Boy From Nowhere is based on the true story of Gary, a young and impressionable boy who is part of the Bajao tribe in Davao City, right on the beautiful Filipino coast. Gary has trouble fitting in with his surroundings. For instance, he isn’t a gifted fisherman like his father and brothers. Second, he asks his father why his skin is lighter than everyone else. His father told him that his mother was from the “Talaanidig” tribe—a community of farmers that live deep in the jungle.

The county of the Philippines is experiencing a transition period. Local tribes are being pushed out by the government, taking over land used by indigenous people for hundreds of years. After the Bajao tribe’s village is burned to the ground intentionally so it can be developed commercially, Gary is now displaced. He begins to travel on foot to find his mother and her tribe. However, he finds more than he bargains for when a street gang led by NackNack takes him in.

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S.J. Finlay also wrote the film, which feels remarkably effortless with limited dialogue and stoic shots. Those include Filipino coastlines, gritty city streets, and vast images of landscapes torn apart in the name of gentrification. The director brings a poetic beauty to a film whose story is traumatic. Even the pacing is remarkably even and controlled. Each act easily transitions, viewing different cultures and social issues that reflect a country in turmoil. It’s an impressive feat for independent film production. Finlay also casts locals in the cast, including Gary Jumawan and Nack Nack, which brings a raw authenticity to the story.

The themes of how various tribes’ land, culture, and identity are being taken from them are impressively condensed and guided with a steady hand. (The main issue is these indigenous tribes have no legal standing on land they have lived and worked on for centuries). For instance, the MPF grooms teenagers as child soldiers to take on the Philippines’ military. Finlay allows the viewer a bird’s eye view of a country erasing cultural identity. His journey includes running from a massacre, knee-deep in guerilla warfare, and wandering into a home he can call his own.

Is the 2023 movie Boy From Nowhere good?

S.J. Finlay’s film has flaws, with an ending that seems to have caught the filmmakers in a trance for my tastes. However, Boy From Nowhere is a raw, gritty, poetic film about the rape and pillaging of cultural identity and history. Finlay’s film is a thoughtful and harrowing experience.

What did you think of Boy From Nowhere? Comment below.

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