The Bay Boy

The Bay Boy
Directed by Daniel Petrie
Produced by Denis Héroux
John Kemeny
Written by Daniel Petrie
Starring Liv Ullmann
Kiefer Sutherland
Peter Donat
Music by Claude Bolling
Distributed by Pan-Canadian (Canada)
Orion Classics (US)
Release dates
6 September 1984 (1984-09-06) (TIFF)
15 February 1985 (United States)
Running time
107 minutes
Country Canada
Language English
Box office $162,364 (US)[1]

The Bay Boy is a 1984 Canadian drama film. It is a semi-autobiographical film based on director Daniel Petrie's experiences of growing up in Glace Bay, a mining town on Cape Breton Island, during the Great Depression. It features the screen debut of Kiefer Sutherland as the film's central character, alongside Liv Ullman as his character's mother.


Donald Campbell (Kiefer Sutherland) is a sensitive teenage boy coming of age in a dark and uncertain time for both his community and life. His mother (Liv Ullman) wants him to continue his education after high school and become a priest, but Donald is more interested in girls than prayerbooks. After an unsuccessful attempt by a visiting priest to molest him, followed by his first sexual experience with a local girl, Donald politely informs his mother (without revealing why) that he is not going to be a priest.

Meanwhile, when he is not in school, Donald spends his time helping his father (Peter Donat) dig a Bootleg Pit; helps care for his older brother, Joe, who was the brightest boy in his grade until he got sick and was left disabled; and pursues Saxon Coldwell (Leah Pinsent), one of police Sergeant Coldwell's two daughters. Sergeant Coldwell's wife died a few months earlier.

Donald lives a hard-working but fairly happy life, until the night he witnesses Sergeant Coldwell shoot and kill the Jewish couple who are his landlord and landlady. The chief of police is a relative, so Donald feels comfortable admitting he saw the killing but he says he did not see who did it, because he is afraid of Sergeant Coldwell - especially after Sergeant Coldwell lets Donald know that he is aware that Donald did see who committed the murder (because he could not have seen the shooting without also seeing who did it). When the Sergeant comes home and finds Donald (innocently) visiting with his daughter Dianna, he snaps mentally and tries to kill the boy - with the result his secret is revealed and he is arrested.

The film also depicts the daily lives of the eccentric locals and tight-knit families.


The movie was filmed entirely on location in Cape Breton, and primarily in Glace Bay. Many of the extras are performed by local residents.


The film won the Genie Award for Best Canadian Film, Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Alan Scarfe), Art Direction, Costumes and Sound



  1. "The Bad Boy (1985)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
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