Painterly cinematography around the Newfoundland coast and a soulful lead performance from young star Percy Hynes White aren't enough to overcome an awkward script in Cast No Shadow, a film that, like Mysterious Skin and The Butcher Boy, explores child abuse and the retreat into fantasy.
Jude, an undersized misfit 13-year-old, works as a drug carrier for his brute of a father (screenwriter Joel Thomas Hynes, real-life father of Percy). Jude also has a harder-to-buy fantasy life about a murderous gold-loving troll (a too-obvious father double) who lives in a cave near the rocky shore.
Bolstering the Grimm's fairy-tale motif is an older female neighbour (Mary-Colin Chisholm) with a reputation as a witch, who sheds light on Jude's past family trauma.
The film's difficulty with portraying credible age-appropriate behaviour is especially awkward in a scene where a predatory older girl attempts to seduce diminutive Jude.