Bulger Film – New Thinking


Posted by News Editor

Posted in News



An expert on the James Bulger case says a new film which saw its UK premiere in Winchester on Friday proves the incident remains “deeply troubling” after 25 years.

David James Smith is author of ‘The Sleep of Reason’ – a book devoted to the Bulger case.

He described Detainment as a “remarkable achievement” as it received its UK premiere at the Winchester Film Festival.


The high profile murder case evoked public anger, hurt and a new level of disgust in the behaviour of human beings because the crime was against a child, committed by children. Those of us who reported on the case in 1993 were left horrified and questioning how they could do it.

Through the film, director Vincent Lambe made the point that he wanted to “humanise” the two boys who committed this horrific crime, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. Nobody had attempted this before.

He was very clear that this was not to feel sympathy towards the culprits, but to see them as only being children and not demons.

The film is based on the interview transcripts and records from the case.

Lambe told the audience after the screening at the Discovery Centre that it is a “tragedy for three families. Once you remove the anger towards the two 10-year-olds who committed this heinous crime, there are two more sets of grieving parents left behind trying to make sense of what their sons have been capable of doing.”

‘Detainment’ does not distract audiences from the horrifying crime. It depicts how these boys confessed to what they had done and the exceptional work carried out by the Merseyside police force.

The pair were convicted in November 1993, and became the UK’s youngest convicted murderers of the 20th Century.

John Hayes is Director of Winchester Film Festival which made the decision to premiere ‘Detainment’:  “The film spares us none of the horror of the James Bulger story, but dares to humanise his killers. How British audiences react to this dramatisation will tell us whether we are ready to accept it is a tragedy for three families.

“What is certain is that this controversial film will divide opinion and deserves to be seen.”