The Young Poisoner’s Handbook - * * 1/2*

Offbeat satirical comedy is an interesting character study, but not all that great of a movie. Hugh O’Connor portrays Graham Young in this true story. As a young boy, Graham is obsessed with science and rational thought. When he finds he lacks the ability to manipulate people with his social skills, he turns to science. At first he experiments with small doses of poisons, but eventually his curiosity gains hold of him, and he sets out on a grand experiment to become the world’s greatest poisoner. His first victim is his stepmother, whom he meticulously poisons, and documents the next several months results with excruciating detail. However, he is caught when his father contracts the same symptoms, and at the tender age of fourteen is deemed a psychopath and locked away for life. Enter the well meaning psychiatrist Dr. Zeigler (Antony Sher). Zeigler wants desperately to prove he can rehabilitiate a psychopath, and Young desperately wants to get out of prison. After several years of therapy, Young is “rehabilitiated”, and sent out on the streets, where his life’s calling starts beckoning again… Graham Young is an interesting character, remarkably played by O’Connor. He is possessed of such cold rationality that you can see the underlying logic in his poisonings. Unfortunately, although possessing a strong central character, the film fails as a comedy. Graham’s extended torture of his family (particularly his stepmother) is difficult to bear and doesn’t carry the comedic impact it should. The film’s centerpiece of Young’s rehabilitation is obviously satirical in intent, yet it seems to take itself too seriously. Only in the final third, does the movie find a comfortable rhythym. Yet when it ends, there is a strangely bitter taste left in the mouth.

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