Vincent Lamb

Premiered in the UK by Winchester Film Festival

It seems to us at WFF that some judgments are being made about Detainment by people who haven’t seen the film, so we are collecting thoughts and feelings from those who have…not to defend the film but to seek an informed response.

If you are a film critic, journalist, festival representative, please contact festival director John Hayes for festival statement,

“I thought Detainment was a remarkable achievement, a compelling and disturbing evocation of those events, which I know all too well and remain deeply troubling even after 25 years. The film was authentic and brilliantly cast especially the two boys who perpetrated the killing of James Bulger. While I could imagine some would recoil from the idea of dramatising such a terrible crime, I thought the film was both unflinching and also sensitive to the ongoing trauma. If audiences are willing they will find in the film the truth of the two boys and their inescapable smallness – they were just ten, after all – which only serves to make the incident as unfathomable now as it was in 1993. As Detainment I think seeks to explore, even though the killing is painfully difficult to comprehend we have a responsibility, not only to the victim and the perpetrators but also to ourselves, to try and make sense of what happened. In that way the film avoids prurience and shows us two boys of primary school age who are not the evil monsters of popular imagination but only human after all. I hope the film finds the wider audience it very much deserves.”

David James Smith, Journalist and author of The Sleep of Reason – The James Bulger Case

The below thoughts and feelings of people who attended the UK premiere of Detainment have not been selected or edited. We publish all the reviews we receive from those who attended the screening.

“As if in a dream, Detainment (Vincent Lambe) opens with two ten-year old boys let loose in a sleepy shopping centre. The camera glides, the boys run and tumble in slow motion, and in a moment of subtle foreshadowing, toys are stolen and destroyed. Read more 
A review of Detainment from before the controversy, by SuperCool Cinema

“Detainment is a fascinating, compelling film that gives us a vital new take on a familiar story. Never before have we had any idea of how the police questioned Jon Venables and Robert Thompson or these young boys’ responses. This film fills a gap in our understanding of the circumstances and tragic events that led to James’ death. It’s difficult to comprehend how and why these boys committed this heinous crime. This film doesn’t attempt to answer that, but it does remind us that this was a tragedy, for the families of James’ killers, as well as for the Bulgers, albeit to a very different degree. Lambe may be criticised for even attempting to show this murder from a different perspective, but he hasn’t shown any particular or undue sympathy to the killers’ families. In the interests of good journalism and public interest, he was right to make this brave film.”
James Ingham, Senior Broadcast Journalist, BBC South

“It was heartbreaking to watch and my husband was very distressed afterwards.  I can understand why the family are calling it to be removed but I also believe it carries an important message about how crucial it is to protect children from growing up too quickly.  No child is born ‘evil’, society has to be held responsible too.  Why didn’t the parents properly guard their children?  What was their upbringing?   Summing up, I feel heartache and compassion for the Bulger family, but I also see how vulnerable kids are and the message should be to do more to protect them.
“I lived in Liverpool at the time of James Bulger murder at University.  I was living in Anfield. I remember the shock waves through the community.  I always wondered why noone batted an eyelid at two young kids wandering around the streets with a little one.  If anything, the film shows that this was not particularly ‘normal’ (they were questioned) nor was it considered weird (others didn’t question).  For me, the story was about the failure of parenting, education system and community.  It was also about the impact of kids watching unsuitable videos etc and how they lost a sense of reality.  They just didn’t have emotional intelligence and watching horror films left them numb to empathy.”

“I believe that Detainment was made with good intentions. It WASN’T made to glorify or justify the crime/ criminals, and it WASN’T made to exploit a tragedy for financial gain.
A lot of people have judged this film without watching it, and by seeing the film myself, I saw that the filmmakers tackled an extremely sensitive subject in a tasteful and gracious way, which pays tribute to the victim.”
Robert Smith

“In my humble opinion the film was thoughtful and tried to analyse the reasons behind the tragedy. Though we have the utmost sympathy for the mother, she should not be able to dictate policy.”

“Cinema should help people to express themselves in the way they want and that is what Vincent Lambe did. Taking that away from him would be taking away his right to talk as well, especially when we are talking about a film that is so beautifully done and powerful.”
Maxine Lamblot

The film is really well and respectufully made, there are no graphic scenes that show the murder itself.The actors, especially Ely and Leon who played Jon and Robert, were extremely remarkable. As someone who’s been researching the case, I can say that the film is very truthful as it’s based on police interviews and on The Sleep of Reason as well, a book by David James Smith about the case in extreme detail. Watching the events of the case being portrayed in a film instead of just reading about it was indeed emotinal, and seeing two 10 year boys crying, lying and finally admitting to comitting such a horrific crime makes one think of how disturbing this case was, and how hard it must have been for everyone involved. Some parts in the film (interviews and other details)were never mentioned in documentaries ( I read them in The Sleep of Reason), such as questions/comments made by Jon and Robert, which showed how naive and simple they were, making it more chilling to imagine that they were capable of murder, and how Robert was too clever and mature for his age, challenging the police and throwing in some disturbing remarks, which rises the question of how and why they did this. The film does not answer such questions, but addresses the case from a new perspective: It was and still is a three family tragedy.

“Beautifully displaying a tragedy of three families, leaving you with a sense of ‘what ifs’. The film doesn’t attack or sympathise with the two child-murderers. It simply portrays what happened.”

Film synopsis

Country of origin: Ireland
Length 0:29:48 minutes
Director Vincent Lambe
Cast Ely Solan, Leon Hughes, Tara Breathnach, Will O’Connell, David Ryan, Morgan.C.Jones, Brain Fortune, Kathy Monahan, Killian Sheridan, Martin Phillips.

Two ten year-old boys are detained by police under suspicion of abducting and murdering a toddler. A true story based on the interview transcripts and records from the James Bulger case which shocked the world in 1993. 

Nominated for Oscar at the 2019 Academy Awards, pending final decision.
Winchester Film Festival 2018 Best Foreign Short Film
43rd Odense International Film Festival Winner of Grand Prix HCA Award
58th Krakow Film Festival Don Quixote Award  winner

Full list of awards here


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