What A Murder in Mansfield is all about without spoiling the show
This true crime documentary is different from many others. It’s not so much the case of Jack Boyle murdering his wife Noreen as much as it is about their son’s revelations in the aftermath.
A Murder in Mansfield starts off with courtroom footage from the trial of Jack. Collier Landry Boyle, who later dropped the last name of his father, goes on the stand as a precocious 12-year-old. He’s well-spoken, comfortable in front of an audience, and able to deliver the most damning evidence of all against his father. Jack is found guilty of the crime and 26 years later, Collier is a filmmaker who heads back to Mansfield.
The documentary includes interviews with people who knew Noreen. Collier visits his old home and others he hasn’t seen for years. It all leads up to him confronting his father behind bars. Jack wants Collier to help him with his parole. Collier wants Jack to admit he killed his mother.
What was good about A Murder in Mansfield
The way this was presented actually worked incredibly well. Although the filmmaker is at the center of this story, it didn’t come off as self-serving like many others. Confronting A Serial Killer is always the one I think of whenever I see a filmmaker get too involved in the case and make it about them, not the real victims. A Murder in Mansfield was more like Murder on Middle Beach where the filmmaker is the child of the female victim. The big difference between the two is that A Murder in Mansfield is a solved case.
Collier does a nice job of making this a well-told story about his relationship with his father, mother, and who Noreen was. It’s actually perfectly balanced. Even in the epic true crime documentary The Staircase we never got to know much about the victim. In this single film, Noreen’s loving nature is explained and understood perfectly.
A Murder in Mansfield is simplistic. The lone goal seems to be for Collier to get Jack to confess. He wants answers in the end. The build up to their scene in the prison near the end was worth the wait.
What could have made A Murder in Mansfield better
Would A Murder in Mansfield have been better if it got the Netflix treatment? You know what I mean. Their true crime documentaries have more pizzazz than substance at times. This isn’t that kind of film. It’s low-budget which works for what the goal Collier has in the end.
I would have liked to see more from the trial and hear more from Jack. He would have likely stuck with the same story he told Collier. It’s very clear there are more troubling facts about the imprisoned former doctor. There is a ton of content which could have been pulled out of this case. Choosing to do it this way and make it about the relationship between the child of the victim and murderer was done well enough for me to have few suggestions to improve.
The only thing I would have liked to see more of is some intrigue. It’s clear why the murder was committed. Jack is an evil man who has no qualms about lying or hurting others. He only cares about himself and the letters he writes back to his son as a child showcase what a monster he is.
Is A Murder in Mansfield worth watching?
If you’re looking for a good mystery, stay away from this one. It’s not what you’ll get whatsoever. We already have the answers. This doesn’t mean A Murder in Mansfield is bad. On the contrary, it was refreshing for a different take on true crime.
I give my recommendation on this documentary. It’s a unique perspective Collier has on this case. We get what feels like an honest portrayal and no moments where he’s hamming it up for the camera. He didn’t make this film for attention, at least no more than anybody makes any movie.
Collier was damaged by his father’s selfish and sick actions. On a quest for answers, he makes a good film about the biggest tragedy in his life.
Overall Score: 8 out of 10
A Murder in Mansfield is not epic or poignant. It’s a personal film that works on many levels. The way the story was told makes it worth checking out.
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