I don’t know if Daria Dedok’s A Boy I Never Knew was created during the COVID-19 pandemic or if it’s just well timed, but it almost doesn’t matter. The mood it captures, of listlessness and disconnection, boredom and alienation, is one with a powerful resonance in our current moment.
Structured as a series of vignettes drawn in stark black and white, and to a soundtrack of mournful jazz, the film is a set of confessions anchored in fear, confusion, numbness, and anxiety. “I don’t feel anything when I look at works of art.” “I don’t feel that I know what awaits me.” “I don’t feel myself.” The anxieties they represent are deep and troubling, the kind that repeat in your head on those nights where sleep refuses to come.
That feeling of late-night worry finds an echo in the imagery. Dedok’s depictions of those worries start out straightforward enough, but it doesn’t take long before they drift towards the dreamlike, embracing visual metaphor and even humour. Somehow that surrealism makes it feel even more personal—a glimpse into an internal monologue that cuts through the projections of strength and confidence that can feel necessary in day-to-day life.
If this all makes the film sound overly dour, that’s not exactly true. Like any confession, A Boy I Never Knew can be seen as both an admission of weakness and a source of strength. Acknowledging these feelings is a way of working through them; capturing in art is a way of reaching out. The film’s last shot is one that hints at the possibility of connection, and ambiguous as it is, it’s enough to feel like hope.
A Boy I Never Knew
dir: Daria Dedok