Known for his gritty portrayal of small town life in Northern England, Short of the Week alum, Aaron Dunleavy has made another splash on the festival scene with his latest film, The Truants. Following two school-skipping boys who meet their latest victim of amusement in a quiet teen with lesser circumstances, they navigate a growing industrial landscape and discover how easy it is for things to get dangerously out of hand. A film that explores loss of control and bullying, The Truants is an intense critique of boyhood and naivety.
“The idea of exploring how young people can easily fall through the net and how small actions can progressively get out of hand were what inspired me to tell the story”, explains Dunleavy. The two boys, played by locals from his hometown in Blackburn, England, spiral out of control as they egg each other on in a game of who-can-bully-the-best.
While at times, you think all three characters may share some camaraderie, it’s clear that as soon as the two youngsters show any kind of empathy toward the other teen, they must one-up each other up in a twisted, reassuring show of power. The escalation of torment will put you in an uncomfortably sympathetic mindset as the story unfolds. You can’t help but feel the slow burn of dread almost from the onset of the film.
“For some scenes, we didn’t even call action”
Much like the narrative, control, or lack thereof, plays a influential role in the filmmaking process (in the best kind of way). The Truants was not only unscripted, but the actors were encouraged to improv and be themselves as they stepped into their roles.
“Improvisation was a key factor in the filmmaking process, as the young cast was made up of local street-casted kids who had no prior acting experience” says Dunleavy. “For some scenes, we didn’t even call action, but kept the cameras rolling continuously and captured the kids being natural, almost unaware that the cameras and crew existed around them”.
A technique he employed in his previous film Throw Me to the Dogs (you might recognize quite a few familiar faces between both films), this unchained approach to performance once again reaps the rewards for this emerging filmmaking as it’s the believability of the piece that really makes his short resonate. So while the chain of events that transpire in The Truants may be a wrench to the gut, the process and the performances will impress the sh*t out of you.
The Truants has garnered quite a bit of attention, becoming an Official Selection of the London Short and BFI Future Film Festivals. Dunleavy is currently developing his debut feature film with support from Anonymous Content, the Hollywood production company behind Academy Award winning films like The Revenant as well as hit TV shows like True Detective. We can only imagine what kind of drama Dunleavy will bring to the big screen and certainly have high hopes!