As debut features go, there’s something distinctly unique and daring about Rafael Kapelinski’s first time endeavour, which bravely enters into the paedophilic mind of a teenage boy, tackling themes seldom seen in cinema. Most strikingly is how the director places the empathy with the protagonist, portraying his abhorrent, perverse sexual desires as something of an illness, creating an intimacy with the character that makes the audience question their own moral compass, as we struggle to comprehend how we’re able to have sympathy for somebody with such sickening thoughts. But that’s what allows this provocative production to stand out from the crowd.

Theo Stevenson plays the aforementioned role of Jake, who harbours these dark desires, as a pensive, introverted teenager, often lost in his own mind, while his more overt best friends Kyle (Liam Whiting) and Jarred (Byron Lyons) navigate their way around their modest London surroundings, speaking about girls, porn, school and everything else in between. Spending much of their time in the snooker club run by the uncompromising, sort-of-affectionately named Shrek (Thomas Turgoose), the boys are keen to to help Jake lose his virginity, hoping he might strike it lucky with his neighbour Zara (Rosie Day). Though while he gets closer to the elusive girl, his inner demons attract him more so to her much younger sister, as he struggles to make sense of the complex thoughts in his mind.

Butterfly KissesPresented in monochrome, this artistic choice made by Kapelinski is an interesting one, and it serves the narrative well. From an aesthetic perspective it’s simply gratifying, creatively employed, such as when the police siren flickers, providing the only light on screen and adding a strobe effect of sorts as we dip in and out of the character’s faces. This visual choice also enforces the notion that this entire story is taking place in the shadows, as the viewer spends the majority of time inside Jake’s head, trying to comprehend the situation in the same way he is. The filmmaker has been sure to shoot the English capital with an affectionate eye too, as London makes for a striking backdrop, with the looming council flats adorning the landscape adding a certain charm to proceedings. It works as a perfect contradiction too, to the sheer anguish playing out in front of it.

The young boys that make up the majority of this leading cast impress too, particularly Stevenson, who must be applauded for taking on this role, especially since his background with Horrid Henry means he has built up a fan-base who may well have different expectations for his career than the choice he has just made. But good on him, there are so few roles that examine the mindset of somebody going through what Jake is, and it’s this that makes the film interesting. It’s helped along by the commitment to realism in other departments, as the dialogue between the boys in naturalistic, albeit somewhat vulgar. But then they are only teenagers – though as this film proves, that’s not always a tolerable excuse.