It's a film with a great title, but unfortunately The Loneliest Boy in the World is overly quirky. It wants to be an Edward Scissorhands type of thing, but it is no Tim Burton. The Loneliest Boy in the World ends up doing this balancing act between comedy and horror, a happy-sad fairytale with a lot more gore despite a similar story in a certain way. It reminds me even more of Blast From the Past with its retro ‘80s vibe, since the lead character watches Alf all the time.
Max Harwood plays Oliver, the lonely boy of the title, whose mother has died. Oliver is at an age where Child Protective Services are involved, but he's almost ready to be an adult. He has to make a friend or he'll be sent to an asylum, so he starts digging up people to be his “friends.” So far, so Weekend at Bernies, but they end up being zombies… so Zombies at Bernies?
Then there's a little romance between him and a local girl tacked on, which didn't seem necessary. Instead of ending up as a zombie film, it ends up being more of a quirky teen romance. Filmmaker Martin Owen's previous film was Twist the modern update of Oliver Twist; he also made The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud, which is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination either, but it worked a lot better than this one. It tried to be an ‘80s throwback and was more effective in achieving that ambition of being something that you might have found hidden away in a video shop.
The Loneliest Boy in the World is supposed to be set in the US but it's obviously in the UK, creating a weird vibe—if you look closely, all of Oliver's VHS tapes are UK releases, that kind of thing. A little more focus on detail might have helped here to make the scenario work. Still, it has a lot of charm and inventiveness. Some of the visuals are nice, there's some good production design, and at 90 minutes it doesn't go on for too long. But in the end the film is not fantastic. I would also say that it's not really scary, and the humour doesn't land in quite the way that they were hoping. There's enough imagination on screen that it's hard not to appreciate The Loneliest Boy in the World, however. It's sincere, and when so many films are insecure that's something at least, but it just didn't quite gel—the premise was just a little too thin for its own good.
The Loneliest Boy in the World was screened at Grimmfest 2022, will be released digitally in the US on October 21st, the UK release will be later this year