Animated personal opinion reviews Short Films

Junkyard – Why This Meaningful Story About Child Neglect Is A Must Watch

Junkyard is dark, to say the least, but it’s not just the somber and depressing tone set throughout the film that defines this observation, it’s ultimately also the ending that produces a different theme entirely. The story of Junkyard follows two youths called Paul and Anthony who become friends. We don’t see how they become friends and we can assume that they became friends fairly recently. They come from slightly different backgrounds and this is shown throughout the whole film. If you want to watch Junkyard, scroll down to the bottom of this post or watch Junkyard here (← contains flashing imagery, beware).

First Scene

The movie starts with a man and a woman walking through a subway. It’s obvious that they have been on a night out and have enjoyed themselves. They come across various people in the subway which in western society we would consider undesirables, drug users, drunks, and beggars. It’s obvious that the man and woman look down on these people as they walk toward the subway. A man even comes up and asks the man for change but he rudely sends him away.

While they’re on the subway a man steals the women’s purse and Paul (the man) rushes after him, the chase continues until they reach the inter-joining part between the carriages.

The man is stabbed and we are then taken to a flashback scene where we see the man as a child. With another child. We first see Paul and Anthony when they enter a Junk Yard full of scrapped cars. They’re only about 12 in this scene and it clearly shows as the boys run through the park joyfully smashing up the already decrepit vehicles.

We see how careless and innocent Paul and Anthony are through their actions in this scene and it shows that their view of the world is the same as most youths of that age. Whilst smashing some of the already worn-out cars the two boys come across an old caravan, appearing disused at first. The boys laugh as Anthony smashes the window but then a scream emerges from the caravan, it’s a man. He points a gun at the boys as they run off. 

Shortly after we see Anthony and Paul return to what appears to be Anthony’s house. He rings the doorbell and a figure promptly appears on the glass pane, it’s Anthony’s mother. She opens the window and hands, Anthony, a note, telling them to get himself some food.

After this, they are seen at a food stall buying food. Paul’s mum then calls him and he goes inside his home. It then starts raining and we see Anothy outside banging on the door wanting to get back inside. We see from the point of view of Paul that he has a nice home and a caring mother. They are both interrupted by Another banging and Paul’s mum goes outside to escort Anothy back inside and out of the rain. 

Difference between the boys

So we can see from this first scene that the two boys are different, still friends but different. Paul has a nice mother who cares for him and also looks out for others, even Anthony, who seems to have a less fortunate life. This is the last time we see Anthony and Paul as children but it tells us quite a lot.

 Something I’d like to say about this film and more importantly the first half of it is the fact there is so little dialogue, even in the later scenes. The film manages to pull this off in an incredibly short period of time, given it’s only 18 minutes long. 

In this initial first half of the movie, we establish that Paul and Anthony are friends, as they have been for some time. This is proven when we see a brief glimpse of a photo showing Paul and Anothony as young children. This is important as it mainly sets up our initial impressions of the two boys and their relationship. It also tells us so much without relying too much on dialogue. 

The two boys are united by what they have in common, which is quite a lot. But ultimately, they have different backgrounds and upbringings. The film implies this through what we see in the first events of the film not through dialogue but through showing us on screen. 

This is something that I really liked and it made me enjoy the film a lot more. Being able to portray so much with so little dialogue is something that I have not really seen a lot of on TV, let alone in a movie where you have little time to explain the narrative to your viewers, Junkyard is able to do that in a very convincing and unique way. 

Introduction to Duncan

Later on in the story, we see now that Paul and Anthony have grown up a bit and are now teenagers. I think they’re supposed to be about 16-17 in this and this is because of the way they dress and talk to each other. While taking a ride on their motorbike it breaks down. It doesn’t just break down on any old road though it happens to be next to the Junkyard they visited or used to visit when they were kids.

They’re inspecting the bike when a boy of a similar age but slightly older comes over explaining it’s their exhaust pipe that is the problem, saying he has a new one in the yard.

Paul is hesitant when he sees that the caravan the boys are walking toward is the same one they smashed when they were kids. It’s also confirmed that the child standing behind the man in the first scene named “Duncan” is also the man’s son. 

What’s important about this scene is both Paul’s and Anthony’s reactions and the way they perceive different people and events. Anthony seems to agree and walk blindly into situations without any pre-thought. Paul is different. He is hesitant about his surroundings and where and who he isn’t supposed to interact with.

Anthony seems interested in the older boy Duncan and almost looks up to him, following him around without asking anything, and doing what he says without any hesitation while Paul is always a bit hesitant and cautious.

After they retrieve the part of the bike Anthony, Paul and Duncan then drive off with drugs supplied by presumably Duncan’s father. They go to a drug den where again we see the others go inside without any thought while Paul waits for a bit outside before heading in.

The significance of the boy’s background is something I’ll cover later on but in short, we can see that each of the 3 boys has had a different upbringing and this we will be important later on. 

Drug House Scene

Paul has a slight confrontation in the drug den when he trips over the foot of an unconscious man only for the man to wake up and scream at him. Because of this he is left behind by Anthony and Duncan and is forced to walk home.

This is where he meets “Sally” a girl who appears when Anthony and Paul are shown as teens when have grown up. It cuts to a scene of Sally and Paul kissing and they are interrupted by Anthony.

Sally basically tells Anthony to go away and Anthony walks off to the Junkyard where he witnesses Duncan being abused by his father. Anthony helps Duncan up and the two walk off together.

This scene is great because it shows the compassion Anthony has for Duncan even though they hardly talk to each other. It also shows that Anthony may show Duncan some sympathy as he knows what it’s like to be neglected by his parents.

This almost gives them common ground to be on and it helps establish a more solid relationship between the two. 

Later we see Paul walking Sally back to her flat. He notices a pair of legs poking out from a doorway a couple of doors down. To his amazement, he notices it’s Anthony and Duncan smoking heroin.

We see Anthony gets mad at Paul for this and the two have to be broken up by Duncan. It’s also interesting that in this scene it’s Duncan who is the voice of reason.

After this the three head back to the Junkyard, not only the Junkyard but the feared Caravan which we saw back in the 2nd scene. Paul waits by the gates and doesn’t come in even after being called a “Pussy” by Duncan for not following.

He watches on as the two go into the caravan, hiding behind the main gate to the entrance. Suddenly, some shouts can be heard from the vehicle, and a flame erupts, beginning to engulf the entire caravan.

We can hear the screams of Duncan’s father, as both Paul and Duncan jump out of the now burning home, shortly followed by Duncan’s father, now fully on fire.

Ultimate Scene 

The ultimate scene comes when the 3 boys go back to what I think is Anthony’s mum’s flat. They come back after fleeing the burning Junk Yard, after witnessing Duncan’s father’s death. We never actually see Anthony’s mother properly and she is not present at the flat when they go back.

In fact, we don’t even know if the woman at the start of the film is his actual mother, we just assume and it’s implied vaguely through her gesture when she hands him money to buy food.

The boys begin smoking and Anthony gives some to Paul so he can relax. This is where we get this scene. it seems Anthony begins to hallucinate. However, it could be a warning from his subconscious.

For some reason, Paul starts to hallucinate a burning caravan. It’s very similar to the one Duncan’s father lives in. Suddenly the caravan rises up on its legs and begins to run toward Paul.

His eyes open in sheer horror as he rushes outside. Like I said before I think this is his subconscious telling him there is danger nearby. He jumps up, runs outside and sure enough, sees the entire Junkyard is on fire.

In the last scene before the end scene, we see Paul telling the police something. It’s obvious what this is and we don’t really need an explanation for what happens after, even when Anthony is taken away by the police. 

So there you have it, a great story, told so well. I loved how the story was told, not to mention the pacing. The fact that there was so little dialogue yet we the viewers understand so much from the 17 minutes we see these characters is amazing.

 What is the narrative supposed to represent?

I think really the three boys are supposed to represent 3 stages or categories of children and what can happen if children are badly neglected. Paul is supposed to represent the good child. We see this in the way he is portrayed.

From what little dialogue we do get we understand he’s polite, kind, and morally a good kid. He has a good attitude and we can see he’s had a fairly decent upbringing, with a caring mother who looks after him.

Paul doesn’t have a reason not to interact with Anthony and this is why they are friends. He’s been brought up to respect everyone no matter what background they come from or how they act and this is why he is friends with Anthony. 

Then we have Anthony. Just like Paul, he’s grown up with a mother but he’s been neglected. We see this when either he is shut out, or his mum is unable to come to the door when he is banging on it. This shows that Anthony’s mother is different from Paul’s.

She is irresponsible, and neglectful and doesn’t really seem to show any concern about Anthony, only giving him money to buy food when he bangs on the door of his own home to be let in. I couldn’t really find a viable reason as to why I thought Anthony’s mum was a drug user, however, it’s heavily implied. 

Finally, we have Duncan, who we first see in the beginning scene of the film when Anthony and Paul smash up the caravan. Duncan is at the other end and is the opposite of Paul. He hasn’t had a decent upbringing and is brought up by a drug dealer and user. We see in the film that it’s heavily suggested that Duncan is beaten regularly by his father.

With nowhere else to go his only option is to stay. In my opinion, Duncan has had the worst upbringing and we can see this from the film. He is rude, and uncaring and carries himself in a disrespectful way. 

In a way, the three boys are at 3 levels or stages as I put it. Paul is where you would want your child to be, Anthony is slowly slipping into crime and Duncan is already at the bottom. There are 2 things that they all have in common. The way they were brought up is linked to their actions and situations now, and the Junkyard kind of links them all together. 

Significance of upbringing & backgrounds

It’s hard to tell what the actual characters would have been thinking in the last moments of the end scene. I think it’s safe to say that from the expression on Anthony’s and Paul’s faces that they were both shocked, I think Anthony more than Paul. Anthony sees the final confrontation as a betrayal. Paul essentially tells on his friend and he is taken away.

Paul feels shocked about the death at the Junkyard and the fire that ensues. Either way, it’s a great final ending to the two boys’ relationship and I think it really fits. Paul knew what they were doing was wrong and that’s why he stayed clear (mostly) of Duncan and Anthony.

Anthony seems to be following Duncan whatever he does and Duncan, well, we know what his intentions and problems are. The point I’m trying to make here is their upbringings, more importantly how they are important. Anthony is just starting to slip away while Paul is in good standing.

The reason that Anthony just blindly follows Duncan around is that he doesn’t have a caring mother telling him not to and more importantly setting an example for what is right and wrong in this world and who you should include and trust as your friend and who you should stay well away from.

I think the Junkyard tries to teach these morals and it certainly made me think about my upbringing. Some people aren’t given the same opportunities as others, and some are raised and neglected and I think this is what The Junkyard shows. 

The ending is something that I notice right away as I knew exactly who the assailant was supposed to be. Behind all the flashing imagery we can see Anthony’s worn-out face as he reaches down for the knife.

Did Anthony know it was Paul he had just stabbed? If this is true it opens up the film to a whole load of other possibilities and it leaves the ending up to interpretation. Another thing to add would be if Paul actually knew it was him who stabbed him. Would this be the last thing Paul would be thinking as he slipped away?

The film leaves a lot up to the imagination after the ending and it’s not just here that we see this. For example, as I previously mentioned before the film has little dialogue and most of the information we receive about the characters is entirely visual.

The fact that the film is able to convey so much of the narrative this way is very satisfying as we don’t have to rely so much on it. At the same time, the film also manages to leave elements up to interpretation, allowing the viewer to come up with their own theories. 

Anthony’s mother

Going back to the point about Anthony’s mum, there’s something I missed when I began writing this. I don’t blame myself for not noticing it. That would be Anthony’s mum’s appearance and then departure in the actual film.

We only see Anthony’s mum one time in her appearance when she gives him money to buy food. After that, we never see her again. I’d point out that her appearance was when Anthony and Paul were younger children and not when they were teenagers. So why is this significant?

In the second half of the movie when we see Paul and Anthony are teens and Anthony’s mum isn’t inside the house when they enter after the caravan catches fire. I found it very eerie when they entered the flat and there was barely anything there but a mattress on the floor. What happened to her?

It’s nothing that would stand out initially but I found it interesting nonetheless. Her one-time appearance cemented the viewer’s initial view of Anthony and his life. 

The ending

The ending was brilliant, deep and genuine. Just after the scene where Anthony is taken away, we cut back to see Paul on the train, sitting down, eyes wide open. He’s clearly in shock. Anthony reaches down and grimly wrenches the bloody knife from his stomach, quickly running off after.

Would everything have been different if Paul had not told to the police about Anthony? Would they have carried on being together as friends? Who really knows? The point is that the way you’re brought up and your surroundings influence you in the real world. But you hold the power to make important choices to better your life. Even if you’ve come from a horrible place.

As Paul slips out of consciousness, he is once again transported back to The Junkyard. The place where it all began. I had goosebumps during this final scene. It was truly a heartfelt but incredible way to end the short but telling story.

It was expertly timed with a great musical send-off. The fact that it showed the two boys overlooking the Junkyard once more before they ran off so innocently was perfect and I don’t think there is any other way it could have been done better. 

Thank you for reading, please get involved with the comments below and leave your thoughts. I’d love to discuss it with some of you further.

JUNKYARD – Hisko Hulsing from il Luster on Vimeo.

1 comment

  1. Lovely to read how well you understoofd my film, Frankie. Great writing! It’s a relieve to see that everything I tried to communicated was working out the way I planned it. Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much! I first watched this film when I was about 14-15 and didn’t really understand the meaning of it. Later when I was 19 I re-watched it and realised that it was way deeper & than I had first imagined. The fact that you can convey so much with so little dialogue is incredible. You are clearly very talented. Thank you for taking the time to read my post on this great short film.

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